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Health board votes against Stroger union

Friday, June 26, 2009
Chi-Town Daily News
by Alex Parker

Cook County Health and Hospitals System board members this morning listened to Stroger Hospital doctors and advocates weigh in on their attempts to unionize. After an hour-and-a-half closed-session meeting, board members voted to continue their opposition to the effort.

Two board members opposed the action, questioning the wisdom of using county money to fight its own employees.

The board has continually opposed doctors’ efforts, and in March hired a law firm to intervene after Stroger doctors filed a petition with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The board believes doctors are supervisors to junior staff, precluding them from union membership.

But Stroger doctors disputed that this morning.

“Doctors here, like me, are supposed to be supervisors,” said Dr. Richard David, who works in the newborn intensive care unit. “We’re not supervisors. We are consultants (for residents). I’m a mentor.”

Doctors are hoping to join SEIU Doctors' Council, which represents nearly 200 doctors at other county health facilities.

In other business:

  • Health system board CEO William Foley said the board was working with Woodlawn-based Project Brotherhood, a clinic for black men, to provide grant funding. The clinic, which has a relationship with the county, is running out of funding.
  • The board is close to hiring directors of performance improvement, human resources and public relations, as well as a general counsel, Foley said.
  • Foley told board members that he is close to hiring an interim chief operating officer. Earlier this month COO David Small announced he would leave the health system no later than Nov. 30.
  • Finance committee chair David Carvalho told board members that he was urging COOs and chief financial officers at facilities across the system to reevaluate their budgets for the next fiscal year. In response to issues with Provident Hospital’s nurse registry funds, which are dwindling, Carvalho said facilities should plan for unexpected expenses in their budget requests. He's also urging administrators to avoid the practice of using future budgets to pay this year's bills.
  • The board approved several large contracts, including a five-year, $34 million deal with a company called ACS, which provides payroll and supply chain software. Chief financial officer Pitt Calkin said the system, Lawson ERP, is used in 70 percent of hospitals in the country. It is another step in the health system’s move towards electronic records.

Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.

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