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She just might win fight for a lost cause

Thursday, March 10, 2011
SouthtownStar
by Phil Kadner

Just two days ago, Tya Robinson-May was passionately fighting for a lost cause. And that’s exactly how lost causes sometimes are won.

The 53-year-old nurse, who lives in Harvey, has been appearing at protest rallies and testifying at public hearings in an effort to keep open Cook County’s Oak Forest Hospital.

She worked there for nine years and continues to work for the county as a public health nurse at the courthouse in Markham.

“But I still go over to Oak Forest Hospital in my spare time because the patients there are like family,” she said.

Robinson-May was threatened with the loss of her job after she appeared before county commissioners at a public hearing Feb. 15 and testified on behalf of the long-term care patients at the hospital, some of whom have lived there 30 years, “who couldn’t be here to speak for themselves.”

“I told them I had photographs with me of those patients so they could put a human face on the budget cuts they were planning to make,” Robinson-May said. “That’s what caused the problem.”

She said she never displayed the photos but was notified through her union that she would be placed on paid administrative leave pending a hearing that could lead to her dismissal.

Administrators in charge of Cook County’s hospital system claimed that she had violated the privacy rights of patients at Oak Forest Hospital by taking their pictures.

“I had signed releases from every one of them,” Robinson-May said. “No one ever asked me for them during the public hearing. So I showed up for the (disciplinary) hearing and showed the releases, and that was the end of it.’

On Wednesday afternoon, Robinson-May was planning to participate in a protest rally at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, which also is run by Cook County.

Once more, she intended to denounce the planned closings of Oak Forest and Provident Hospital, which also is part of the county’s health care system.

“If the county were planning to close Stroger, thousands of people would be taking to the streets,” Robinson-May said. “Oak Forest is the only county hospital in the south suburbs, and thousands of people should be marching to keep it open. We need public demonstrations of support.”

Earlier this week, the staff of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board recommended that Oak Forest Hospital remain open. The board is scheduled to meet soon in Joliet to vote whether to approve Cook County’s request to close the hospital.

“I see people driving to Oak Forest Hospital who are having heart attacks,” Robinson-May said.

They don’t come by ambulance because the emergency room at Oak Forest doesn’t allow ambulances to take patients there.

“People walk in. They drive themselves in,” she said. “Pregnant women come in all the time. Shooting victims. Stabbing victims. The elderly and the disabled of the south suburbs, they can’t go all the way to Stroger Hospital. They come to Oak Forest.”

Robinson-May is outraged that Cook County proposes to roll back a half-cent sales tax hike at the same time it’s cutting public health services.

“Let’s have a vote on the issue,” she said. “Do you want to save the lives of people, provide health care for people, or save a half-cent out of your pocket?”

I suggested that vote occurred in November, when county board President Todd Stroger, who imposed the tax increase, was trounced by Toni Preckwinkle in an election. Preckwinkle vowed to roll back the tax increase.

“Gas prices go up, and people find the money to pay for gas,” Robinson-May said. “We can find a way to pay for this hospital.”

Robinson-May and her friend Randy Ruff have collected thousands of signatures on petitions to save Oak Forest Hospital.

If you would like to join their movement, Robinson-May can be reached at (708) 333-9981.



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