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Doctors' side work a 'conflict'
COOK COUNTY | Hospitals' chairman not happy with 2nd jobs at boss' firm

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Doctors who are employees of Cook County-owned hospitals shouldn't be allowed to moonlight for a company owned by one of their bosses, the county hospitals board chairman said Monday in response to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.

That poses a "conflict of interest" that shouldn't be tolerated, Warren Batts said.

The Sun-Times' Watchdogs column reported last week that doctors on the county hospital system's payroll are also being hired for side jobs by Emergency Room Care Providers, a private company owned by Dr. Pierre Wakim, the $304,000-a-year chief of emergency medicine at county-owned Provident Hospital. The company has a $900,000 contract to run the emergency department at Holy Cross Hospital on the South Side.

Some of the doctors getting side work at Holy Cross are under Wakim's direct supervision at Provident.

David Carvalho, the county hospitals board's finance chairman, said the newspaper's report -- which also showed the hospitals don't keep track of doctors' hours -- focused attention on problems he said could result in an overhaul of the rules on county doctors' side jobs and work hours.

The doctors are now required to "swipe in" to prove they showed up for work. But they don't have to "swipe out."

"That's a real problem because you never really know where they are," Cook County Commissioner William Beavers said. "They swipe in, and you don't know if they go work in their private practice or where they go. That's a problem, and I've heard about it since the day I got here."

At a meeting Monday on the hospital system's proposed budget, Batts told Beavers and other county commissioners that the system for tracking doctors' hours is "very weak."

The "management group has never been trained to manage -- as we go forward, we have to have a discipline," Batts said. "If you work here and you're on the payroll on a steady salary, we need to have productivity. I don't think we're there yet."

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