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Stroger in no hurry on health system
COOK COUNTY | Give control to medical experts, panel urges

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times

In one ear, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has health-care officials imploring him to relinquish control of the county hospital system to a panel of medical experts who can run it better than any group of politicians.
In the other ear are politicians and hangers-on urging him to think twice about giving up control of 7,000 jobs and millions of dollars in contracts at a hospital system long seen as ground zero of the county patronage dumping ground.
On Tuesday, Stroger offered only tepid support -- and a request for more time -- for a proposal that would take control of the $745 million-a-year health system away from Stroger and the 17-member board.
The proposal was delivered Tuesday by a panel of outside health-care officials who spent weeks studying the county system, its funding and its operations. Stroger convened the panel at the insistence of Sen. Dick Durbin.
The panel concluded that there's too much bureaucracy and that politics often drives spending decisions instead of what's best for hospital patients.
What's more, the panel said, the bureaucracy and politics neutered everyone who has run the system, saddling them with hires they didn't need and contracts with ill-qualified firms.
Though multiple options were offered -- and must get board support -- it was clear the onus is on Stroger. "It's up to you to provide this leadership," Commissioner John Daley told him.
Stroger had to be asked multiple times where he stood on the plan, even after listening to Larry Goodman, CEO of Rush University Medical Center, clearly explain the dire need for medical experts to take over by the end of this year. Stroger said he had "no problem" with an independent panel taking over, but added that it has to "make sense" before he'll give up control.
Other counties around the country have ceded control of their health system to experts, and those who delay hurt the system, Goodman said.

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