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Stroger waives hospital policy
Patients from outside Cook were denied care

Saturday, January 13, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

Poor people who couldn't prove they live in Cook County were denied care at county hospitals and clinics this past week.
The move caught many doctors, nurses and longtime patients by surprise, and the backlash prompted Cook County Board President Todd Stroger to suspend the policy -- for now.
Stroger may put it back into effect later.
"At this point, all options remain on the table," said his spokesman, Steve Mayberry. "I cannot rule out that these types of measures won't be considered going forward except in the area of emergency medicine."
A cost-cutting move
County officials have long complained about the number of low-income non-county residents using hospital and clinic services, leaving Cook County taxpayers to pick up the bill.
The cost-cutting move was implemented by hospital chief Dr. Robert Simon. But there was no advance notice of the change. Signs were suddenly posted on pharmacy doors reading "Cook County Residents Only."
The signs were put up after a memo was sent from Simon to hospital directors ordering staffers to demand upfront payment from any non-Cook County residents or to direct them to clinics in their county.
Hospital chief reversed again
The memo, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, calls for an end to mailing prescriptions out of the county and requires prior approval before patients from non-county hospitals or clinics are taken in.
Stroger's reversal of Simon's policy marks the second time this week he has reversed his hospital chief.
Simon had told doctors at Provident Hospital that they could expect budget cuts as deep as 50 percent. But Stroger faced a huge backlash from community leaders and, as a result, said cuts would not go that deep.
Stroger is set to unveil a budget Tuesday that includes drastic cuts to all county operations, including hospitals. That's likely to lead to closed clinics, the end of some services and longer waits for those in need of care.


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