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Nurses upset about closures

Saturday, April 28, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman Staff writer

Cook County health bureau officials have misled the public about the effect of closing neighborhood clinics, the county nurses' union is arguing, and patients may have to wait months for an appointment if their clinic is closed.

As part of its strident battle with board President Todd Stroger's administration, the National Nurses Organizing Committee on Friday released a report on the clinic cuts while protesting the county's layoff of 61 nurses. More layoffs may be coming, as the county plans to eliminate 239 nurses' jobs as part of the 2007 budget.

"It's widely known that (10) clinics are closing -- but they're laying off nurses throughout the clinic network," union research analyst Frank Borgers said. "(Health bureau chief Robert) Simon claims the existing patients in the network can be transferred, but who's going to see those people?"

The union's report contends that with reductions in staff across the remaining clinics, patients will suffer. It quotes an internal county health bureau memo saying appointments for transferred patients "are likely 6 to 9 months away."

County spokeswoman Christine Geovanis said those numbers are wrong and patients who need immediate care are being seen quickly regardless of whether they've been transferred.

"We're not familiar with this memo, and its language does not reflect the position of the bureau of health services," Geovanis said.

The union report also says the original argument for closing some of the clinics -- that they saw few patients -- is inaccurate because the county did not count some kinds of patient visits, such as immunizations and pharmacy visits.

"We stand by our numbers," Geovanis said. "Those numbers accurately reflect usage at our clinics."

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