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County may raise taxes after hospital chief's call for help

Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

Cook County's hospital chief says he needs an extra $119 million and dozens more employees to effectively run the hospital system.
And County Board members indicated Tuesday that they're leaning toward some sort of 2008 tax increase to help make that happen.
They seemed receptive after a nearly four-hour presentation from hospital CEO Dr. Robert Simon, who outlined improvements he says have come at county hospitals this year.
His presentation delayed Tuesday's meeting, leaving dozens of the county's highest-paid employees, most who have nothing to do with hospital operations, sitting through a presentation on saving the county money.
Simon used the forum to beat back criticism that he and Board President Todd Stroger are driving the hospitals into a downward spiral.
Stroger's hand-picked hospital transition committee chairman, Dr. Quentin Young, has blasted them for cutting vital health care services.
Simon challenged Young and other critics to come up with better ways to cut similar amounts while meeting the 2007 budget mandate to cut $130 million from hospitals. He said with additional funds, he'd hire more middle managers, as well as doctors, nurses and intake workers. Still, there are concerns among commissioners that patronage hires continue.


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