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County hospital board seeks $100M more in budget

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times
by MARK J. KONKOL

Despite facing tough economic times, Cook County’s independent hospital board wants to spend $100 million more than last year.

The hospital system submitted its 2009 budget to the Cook County board on Wednesday. The proposed spending plan calls for hiring more than 400 new employees, replacing old medical equipment and establishing new departments charged with bringing more oversight to a system that for years has been rife with patronage, cronyism, mismanagement and waste.

About $47 million of the increase is due to employee raises and increasing medical equipment costs, hospital officials said.

Hospital Board chairman Warren Batts called the budget "as realistic as possible" to get the reform process started.

Commissioner Deborah Sims begged the question, "Where do you think the money will come from?"

Batts’ answer? New revenue from the sales tax increase that went into effect in July, of course.

That pool of money is coveted by every county-funded agency, board President Todd Stroger has said.

The county board finance committee is set to discuss the hospital budget at a public hearing Tuesday, when commissioners are expected to submit amendments to reduce the size of the $950 million budget.

Batts said he’ll have more details on plans to eliminate 900 existing jobs and other line-item changes that could eliminate up to $25 million from the budget.



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