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Cook hospitals to reflect job cuts pledge in budget by Monday

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

It's a promise that sounds suspicious: give us 400 new jobs, and over time, we'll cut another 900 unneeded ones. But that's what the Cook County Health and Hospitals System has effectively said with their 2009 budget.

Wednesday, system leaders said they would, effectively, put some of those assurances in writing by amending the dollar amount of their budget by Monday to reflect the job cuts.

It works like this: The new budget asks the Cook County Board for about $65 million more in operating expenses. Of that amount, $47 million is strictly inflationary increases from the 2008 budget: cost-of-living adjustments in salaries, increased costs in medical supplies, etc.

Hospital leaders like Chairman Warren Batts, Finance Chairman David Carvalho, and interim CEO David Small say they've identified 400 new jobs that must be filled in order to address the hospital's chronic inability to bill and collect revenue. But having been in place for just a short time - the board was only formed this summer - they haven't had time to exactly identify specific jobs that could be cut to save money, although they say they know they're there. Carvalho on Wednesday quoted an estimate of 900 jobs that could be cut, resulting in a net reduction of 500 jobs when the 400 new positions are accounted for.

So to reflect at least some of the 900 jobs in the 2009 fiscal year, Carvalho and Batts say they'll reduce the operating expense figure to reflect that. They don't have a number yet, but will by Monday, they said.

When the adjustment is made Monday, the system will actually be asking for a staffing dollar amount that grows less than inflation, Carvalho told reporters Wednesday.

The number will come by Monday likely because that's the day county board members begin closely questioning hospitals system leaders on their numbers.

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