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Cook health chief: No fed money until plan endorsed

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Crain's Chicago Business
by Mike Colias

(Crain’s) — Cook County’s cash-starved hospital system won’t receive any additional federal money until a group of outside advisers endorses a restructuring plan, the county’s health chief confirmed Tuesday.
Cook County Bureau of Health Services Interim Chief Robert Simon met for the first time Tuesday with a “blue ribbon” committee appointed by County Board President Todd Stroger at the urging of several members of Illinois’ congressional delegation.
Lawmakers insist they must see progress from that restructuring effort before they will work to secure more health funding, Dr. Simon said. Mr. Stroger slashed the health bureau’s budget 9% this year, to $745 million, amid dwindling revenues, resulting in 1,000 layoffs and service cuts.
 “The committee will critique our restructuring plan, both short-term and long-term,” Dr. Simon said.
Congressional leaders have not given county officials a deadline for producing a restructuring plan, nor have they promised any additional funding, Dr. Simon said.
Asked if the panel will examine the health bureau’s governance structure and hiring practices, which critics say have led to years of politically connected hires filling high-level health bureau posts, Dr. Simon replied: “They’ll have the power to recommend whatever they think is necessary to make this system more successful.”
Members of the panel include: Rush University Medical Center CEO Larry Goodman, University of Chicago Medical Center President David Hefner; Saint Anthony Hospital CEO Kathleen DeVine, Habitat Co. CEO Valerie Jarrett; Rush University Medical Center CFO Catherine Jacobson, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Eric Whitaker, Oil Dri Corp. of America Chairman Richard Jaffee, and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Terry Mason.

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