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Stroger retreats on stiff cuts at Provident
Calls for smaller budget reduction than 50% sought by hospital chief

Friday, January 12, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by FRAN SPIELMAN AND STEVE PATTERSON

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger retreated Thursday from his tough stand to slash Provident Hospital's budget, caving to pressure from doctors, patients, aldermen and pastors.
Just a day earlier, Stroger declared he would "not stand down" from his plan to bring "radical change" to the South Side hospital that bleeds county money.
County hospital chief Dr. Robert Simon had proposed cutting 50 percent of the hospital's budget, while also closing several clinics and ending multiple hospital programs -- despite reports of people waiting in line for hours for prescriptions and treatment.
Wednesday, Stroger stood by Simon.
Thursday, Simon wasn't talking as Stroger surrounded himself with ministers and doctors as he said there would be cuts of only 17 percent at Provident Hospital.
Stroger said he's unsure what programs will end or which clinics will close but that he wanted to end rumors about Provident.
Simon's predecessors had recommended closing Provident, and Simon had wanted deep cuts.
Simon himself is under pressure because of comments he made 12 years ago about the people who turn to the county for help.
'Our people are suffering'
In a Chicago Reader interview, Simon chastised "die-hard liberals" for supporting programs for the homeless because "most" homeless people "could do things for themselves, but they won't. So who the hell cares about them?" He also said doctors and nurses are overpaid, while most of the work that emergency room nurses do can be done by someone with only a high school education.
"He's very crass in talking about people who are poor, struggling, who use this system as a last resort," said Ed Shurna of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
A Stroger spokesman said he wouldn't comment on "comments made by Dr. Simon 12 years ago."
But Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) is among those disappointed that Stroger has handed responsibility for health care cuts to Simon.
"[Stroger] has a responsibility to look at other avenues and other ways to cut rather than essential health care," Tillman said. "Our people are suffering -- not just unemployed people but the working poor. ... It's not about whether you raise taxes. It's what did you do for the poor."


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