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Cook hospitals chair: We need more money

Friday, August 22, 2008
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

The chairman of the new Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board said Friday the board will likely ask the Cook County Board for a bigger budget next year.

Warren Batts said the budget will have to be larger "whether we like it or not."

But he recognized that the county board could turn him down, and if that happens, he said, the hospitals will just have to make do.

The comments by Batts came after Friday's board meeting, where it became apparent the volunteer board members are starting to grasp the enormity of the task they face in turning around the troubled health system, and some of them are growing impatient with the slow pace reform is taking.

The independent board took over from the county board after commissioners decided to relinquish control. After taking over in June, six months into the fiscal year, new health system board members were told they

were already $40 million in the hole because patient fee revenues hadn't met projections. Last month, they learned they'll have to make do without an additional $15 million in federal funds.

But even those numbers are circumspect, board members concede, because the $55 million figure is based on an already-old May 31 county financial report that itself is partially built around even older March data.

"We don't know what the (actual) deficit is," said Batts.

One of the first directives the board gave Interim Chief Operating Officer David Small was to compile a "dashboard" of financial indicators that could tell them what shape the hospitals are in.

Friday, board member David Ansel expressed frustration the board not only didn't have that dashboard, but didn't even have rudimentary numbers like patient census data.

"I'm distressed by the lack of data of any sort, even at the most basic level," Ansel said.

Small promised to e-mail out census information by the end of the day and noted that subcontractor Med Assets will soon begin bi-weekly revenue reports to the board's finance committee.

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