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Cook County rejects used radiology equipment

Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Back in February, Cook County administrators cited the dire need for health care for poor people when they raised taxes $426 million a year.

Apparently the crisis is over, with the Cook County board voting Tuesday to go first class -- buying brand new radiology equipment for more than twice the price of available used equipment that would have come with a warranty.

"Our specifications do not allow us to procure refurbished equipment," said Cook County purchasing agent Carmen Triche-Colvin in a response to a question from Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, a Riverside Republican.

Neither, said Triche-Colving, did specifications allow the county to accept the two other bids that were lower than the winning bid but would have still provided brand-new equipment.

And what about the coincidence that the winning bidder -- Alliance Health Services -- happens to have donated more than $26,000 over the past few years to various county officials, including $1,000 to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger?

"I can't speak to that," said Triche-Colvin in response to another question by Peraica.

Specifications are specifications, she said. She was defended by Cook County Finance Committee Chairman John Daley, who suggested that Peraica's solution of ignoring specifications on purchasing orders would be folly.

Peraica said the folly is doing business with campaign donors when much cheaper alternatives existed.

"I don't see anything wrong with refurbished equipment that comes with proper warranties … as this one did," Peraica said.

"We'll make sure they (Alliance Health Services) give you some money next time," mocked Commissioner Bill Beavers, a Chicago Democrat who makes no secret of his love of patronage.

With that, the board passed the $130,196.20 contract for portable ultrasonic scanning units by a voice vote, with Peraica and Chicago Democrats Michael Quigley and Forrest Claypool voting no.

So what was wrong with the two other lower bids for also brand-new equipment?

In a memo, Stroger Hospital COO Johnny Brown said a bid from G.E. Medical Systems of $123,656 "did not include the general anesthesia, image compounding software packages and videotapes for ongoing training." He said a bid by Northwestern Pharmaceutical & Supply Corp. for $126,555 "included probes designed for cardiovascular functionality of heart imaging and not probes designed for vascular imaging during central line placement."

The used equipment by Progressive Industries would have cost the county just $58,521.03.

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