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Rumored squashed: Provident won’t be hit with 50% cut, Stroger says

Friday, January 12, 2007
by Michael Wells Shapiro

Physicians at Provident Hospital Thursday successfully pressured Cook County Board President Todd Stroger to back off from a rumored 50 percent
cut aimed at the South Side hospital.
The 50 percent cut to Provident's budget was not set in stone, as it turned out. A letter written by Dr. Lester Wright of Provident and delivered early in the day to Stroger's office argued that the hospital was in a better financial state than Stroger's staff had presumed, and that such a staggering cut was.unnecessary
That letter, along with protests held outside the hospital over the last two days, convinced Stroger to adjust Provident's slated budget cut. However, the hospital's budget still will be reduced by 17 percent, which is consistent with all other Cook County department budgets.
Early morning news broadcasts reporting on the cuts at Provident, located at 500 E. 51st St., sparked outrage among residents. Longtime community activist Mattie Butler said: "It's crazy for them to be cutting [Provident's] budget by 50 percent or any percent. They ought to be adding 150 percent to it because it's overcrowded already."
But County Board commissioners insisted that nothing would be finalized before Stroger's official budget is released on Tuesday. Commissioner Jerry
"Iceman" Butler (also the older brother of Mattie Butler) termed the broadcast reports merely hearsay.
Butler, whose district includes Provident, which is a part of the county's health system, said, "We have not seen what the proposal is going to be. I've heard rumors that [the cut] could be up to 50 percent, but I don't see how it could be 50 percent."
The word that the big cut was not on the table spread quickly among protestors at Provident on Thursday.
However, doctors at Provident were still frustrated by the mandated 17 percent cuts, arguing that it would affect county services.
"With the 17 percent cut, there's a possibility of other clinics being closed, other services being dropped," said Dr. Joseph Pulvirenti, chair of infectious diseases at the hospital. "A 17 percent cut is still drastic."
His sentiments were echoed by medical workers throughout the county's health system.
"The idea of putting small clinics in communities all around the city is you let your 85-year-olds, you let your 90-year-olds come and get their care in a local situation where they don't have to spend an hour and a half getting to the hospital," said Dr. Peter Orris of Cook County Hospital.
Orris stressed the importance of such clinics in getting elderly patients "the preventive care that they need for their hypertension or their diabetes so they don't have a stroke and then come into the hospital really sick."
Calling the efforts of physicians an incredible success, Pulvirenti described the victory as bittersweet. "On a larger level the 17 percent cuts are catastrophic," Pulvirenti said.

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