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Durbin sees value in changing Cook Co. health system.

Saturday, October 13, 2007
Daily Herald
by Joseph Ryan

The drumbeats are getting louder in the push to turn over Cook County's financially strapped and
scandal-plagued public health system to an independent board.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is now privately urging several commissioners to consider the idea as they await
a panel's report on the subject, the Illinois Democrat said Friday during a taping of WBBM 780-AM's "At
Issue."

"This is one of the few public hospitals left in the nation being run by an elected body," Durbin said.
"It is a tough assignment to have a responsibility to run for election and make important and sometimes
politically difficult decisions about health assets."

Durbin's comments came the same day a Daily Herald report revealed 70 groups -- including the powerful
AFSCME union -- plan to push for temporary independent oversight of the county's health care system.
The county is struggling with a massive $400 million shortfall that largely comes from red ink at John
H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, which has been the subject of corruption indictments and criticized for
failing to collect on more than $200 million in unpaid bills.

Durbin played a key role in saving the hospital earlier this year when he pushed through federal
legislation postponing a law change that could have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

On Friday, the senator disclosed that he has seen a draft copy of a panel's report on ways to fix the
county's health care system.

Durbin said the report didn't "specifically" recommend turning over control to an independent board and
that it outlined a need to increase spending.

The official report could be released as early as next week. The "At Issue" interview will run Sunday
at 9:30 p.m. on WBBM 780-AM.



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