After a week on the job, new Cook County Health and Hospitals System
chief medical officer Dr. Terry Mason says he sees great potential in
the county’s health care system.
The former Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner spent
much of his first week visiting county medical facilities and surveying
how health care is delivered to county patients.
“The Cook County Health and Hospitals System has an exceptional
foundation to expand on going forward. I look forward to working with
our CEO Bill Foley, the leadership team and the committed staff
throughout our system to repair the cracks that have gone unrepaired up
until this point and to restore the level of greatness that is the
County health system,” Mason said in a statement issued by the health
The health system’s future is up in the air, as independent board
members grapple with the long-term consequences of the half-percent
sales tax repeal, which will create a $75 million budget gap in 2011.
Foley and County Board President Todd Stroger have said recently that
both Provident and Oak Forest hospitals could close due to the budget
shortfall, though those claims are disputed.
Mason says a key role in his new position will be integrating new
ways to improve health care for patients, including continuing its role
as a training center, becoming more patient-centric and being more
Foley says Mason’s long tenure in Chicago medicine is a boon to the health system.
“His unique combination of medical knowledge, coupled with the deep
roots he has planted in this community, has made him a respected voice
among many people who walk through our doors,” Foley says.
Mason’s term with CDPH, where he was an ardent advocate for healthy living, was marred by several incidents in the last year.
Last winter, more than a million dollars of medications were found
to be expired or stolen from a CDPH warehouse on the North Side.
Mental health advocates have blasted Mason and other city officials
for not admitting the role of a flawed computer billing system that led
to the decision to close four mental health centers. The centers were
eventually allowed to stay open, but billing issues remain.
Mason has a lot to tackle as he takes the helm as the county’s top doc.
Long emergency wait times,
patient dissatisfaction, many patients using the ER as a last resort
for primary care and an influx of patients from collar counties costing
about $50 million a year all complicate the county’s ability to treat
That’s the just a glimpse at the medical side. Health system leaders will have a busy year ahead of them preparing for 2011.