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Oak Forest patient: 'This is my home.'

Saturday, April 07, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by GUY TRIDGELL Daily Southtown

With the afternoon rush hour approaching Friday, some of the most severely injured patients at Oak Forest Hospital made a point.

Draped in blankets, a crowd of 20 positioned their wheelchairs into oncoming traffic. The backups started immediately, followed by horn blasts and a visit from Oak Forest police. Within minutes, the demonstration was over.

Its point?

Opposing a plan by Cook County to pare down or scrap long-term medical care at the hospital, which many patients contend would put them on the street. Eighty-five hospital jobs could also be eliminated under the proposal aimed at easing the county's $500 million budget deficit

Charles Sanders arrived at the hospital after he was shot in the neck six years ago while working a security job on Chicago's West Side. He suffers from paralysis and breathing problems.

"I was on the verge of losing my life when I came here. They brought me back," said Sanders, who was joined by hospital workers. "This is my home."

The county notified the residents this week of its plans to discontinue the long-term service on Sept. 1.

The discharge process starts May 1.

County spokesman Steve Mayberry said two options are being considered for the long-term residents.

The first is to reduce the number of beds in the program from 220 to 70 and to transfer Medicaid patients to other facilities. The second option is to eliminate all long-term care.

Residents and social service agencies will meet May 14 to discuss other housing options if the county ends the care, Mayberry said.

"There is a sentiment that these people are being put on the street," he said. "That's just not true."

Sun-Times News Group

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