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Health disaster

Saturday, March 03, 2007
Special to
by Mardge Cohen
Letter to the Editor

Chicago -- As a physician who has worked for the county for more than 30 years, I am convinced that the cuts made by President Todd Stroger and most of the commissioners are a health disaster in the making. Right before our eyes.

We will deny people care in the tens of thousands.
The planned cuts are not just belt-tightening but represent a massive assault in ways that are likely to affect the entire health system.

When I work in my general medicine clinic, I can no longer order a screening mammogram on any patient.

Our anticoagulation clinic (the only way to safely manage the hundreds of patients taking these dangerous drugs) is being discontinued.

More than 70 beds at Oak Forest Hospital (our rehabilitation and long-term care hospital) have been eliminated--certainly worsening overcrowding at the hospital.

The cuts will also cause the closure of many Chicago neighborhood and school-based clinics, which will mean 600 fewer clinic sessions each week.

It will slash the number of weekly sick calls in the prisons from seven to two or three in some divisions.

Hundreds of doctors and front-line nurses who care about the quality of care of their patients have already received pink slips.

The highest quality nurses and doctors are losing their jobs at County. It really takes so little to make a difference.

People say we can't give the care any more because we don't have the money. How can we look around the city of Chicago and say we don't have the money? People in this county yearn to heal problems, to help each other. That's the part of the sustainability discussion that we have to tap. We cannot be quiet or afraid. We have to force our leaders to have the courage to meet these challenges. We must build a sustained commitment to ensure real community input and appropriate resources to achieve equitable health care in Cook County. The alternative is not acceptable.

Mardge Cohen, MD, Senior physician, Department of Medicine, Stroger Hospital, Associate professor of Medicine, Rush University

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