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Immigrants group, nurses protest Simon

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman Staff writer

An immigrants rights group plans a protest today in response to comments made by the chief of the Cook County Health Bureau that suggested the county should deport some immigrant patients.
The March 10 Movement plans a joint protest outside county board President Todd Stroger's office with the National Nurses Organizing Committee -- the vocal union representing Cook County nurses that has organized several protests over budget cuts.
Both groups oppose Robert Simon's leadership of the county health system and plan to call today for his resignation.
The planned protest earned a blistering response from the Stroger administration, which said the nurses' union was more interested in protests than patients.
The union and the immigrants group said the demonstration stems from Simon's comments Sunday in a story in the Daily Southtown. Simon said one way to lower the county's medical costs was to fly undocumented immigrants back to their home countries and let their families care for them.
"We should pay the transport and the airfare to get them there," he said. "They're citizens of another country."
Jorge Mujica, spokesman for the March 10 Movement, said those comments were "incredibly outrageous."
"We are on the verge of discussing immigration reform in this country," Mujica said. "In this moment, in this context, with the possibility of many of these people becoming legal -- that's not the response of a serious, professional person."
Mujica said county health facilities are some of the only places that undocumented immigrants can go for long-term care when injured on the job.
"These were people who were incredibly productive in this society for years. Now they're trapped," he said.
Sheilah Garland-Olaniran of the nurses' union said Simon has shown a lack of compassion for county patients.
At Stroger's direction, Simon cut heavily from the county health bureau to balance the 2007 county budget without tax increases. Neighborhood clinics closed, and some hospital services were cut.
Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said the union was not helping patients.
"If (it) spent the same amount of time and energy serving the sick individuals ... as (its officials) do randomly and recklessly attacking this administration and organizing mass call-offs, our health care system would likely be in better shape," Mayberry said. "It is unfortunate that their commitment is only to their members and their goals, and completely disregards the people who need their members most."


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