Critics of cuts at Oak Forest Hospital speak out
Sunday, January 25, 2009
by Jason Freeman
When the Cook County Health and Hospital System board was created
last year in an effort to depoliticize the operation of the county's
financially strained health care system, Frank Borgers, a research and
legislative analyst for the National Nurses Organizing Committee, was
"The nurses, along with a lot of community folks, fought to create
this board with the goal of saving the health care system and with the
assumption that it would be based on public input," he said.
But Borgers said the nine-member board's recent decision to end
inpatient surgeries at Oak Forest Hospital and move them to Stroger
Hospital has made him reconsider that optimism.
"There was no community involvement," he said. "There was no discussion. They just took a vote, and that was it."
Borgers joined dozens of residents and health care advocates
Saturday in voicing concerns over the board's decision during a
community town hall meeting at Victory Christian International
Ministries in Markham called "A Change We Can Believe In - A Change
That Is Needed."
The meeting was sponsored by the Southland Ministerial Health
Network, the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois and the Crossroad
Coalition and featured guest speakers from those organizations as well
as from the hospital board.
During the open-floor discussion afterward, many residents seemed
frustrated that they will have to go to Chicago in order to receive
inpatient surgery. Others, such as Emilie Junge, a regional coordinator
for the Doctors Council SEIU, were angry that Oak Forest Hospital
doctors weren't included in the decision-making process.
"The decision was made all of a sudden with no notice and with no
opportunity for the doctors to have some input," she said. "Our view is
that we should be seen as partners in the process of restructuring a
David Small, the board's interim chief executive officer, apologized
during his speech but said the board is working on a new process that
will include everyone in future decisions.
"Management and the board will have a conversation about concepts
for change and redesign, and before there's final decision-making that
starts us on our way to implement that, we'll go out and engage the
community and others who are stakeholders," he said. "We'll discuss
those concepts and get feedback and bring that back to the board so
that everything is fully considered before final decisions are made."
Borgers, though, said it's a case of too little, too late.
"Offering an apology after the fact doesn't cut it," he said. "We
believe that nurses, doctors and the community need to have a voice at
the table, but they don't right now."
Authorities said Oak Forest Hospital will still offer outpatient
surgeries that don't require full anesthesia. Surgeries requiring full
anesthesia, but not an overnight hospital stay, will be done mostly at
Provident Hospital in Chicago, they said.
Jason Freeman can be reached at email@example.com or (708) 802-8808.