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Panels back Stroger pick for health chief

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

After rejecting rumors that he opposes abortion and pledging to restore the "luster and excellence" of the Cook County health care system, Dr. Daniel Winship won the unanimous endorsement of two County Board committees to run that system.

The approval of the two committees, whose members constitute a majority of the board, all but ensures that Board President John Stroger's nomination of Winship to become the new Bureau of Health Services chief will be approved when the board considers it July 13.

After abortion-rights groups questioned Winship's commitment to abortion services and said the county health system doesn't adequately serve poor women in that area, Commissioner Mike Quigley asked him his position on the issue.

Winship said he doesn't like abortion, but added, "I am strongly in favor of a woman's choice, that it is up to her what she does with that fetus, and that is the law of the land also."

Quigley also asked Winship whether he was committed to providing services, including HIV/AIDS treatment, to all regardless of sexual orientation.

"Our policy is to take care of everybody who shows up and needs care, and it must be done without discrimination," Winship said.

In opening remarks during the public hearing, at which no one from the public spoke, Winship said Cook County Hospital, now Stroger Hospital, in the 1940s, '50s and '60s "was really one of the most illustrious hospitals in the country and perhaps in the world."

Its reputation, like that of most public hospitals, began to fade as funding for care, research and teaching declined and affiliations with other hospitals weakened, he said.

Ruth Rothstein, the chief of the Bureau of Health Services for the last 14 years, made strides "toward re-establishing it as a very important public health care system," he said. "But in many other ways it has a long way to go."

"Excellent patient care is the No. 1 priority in my mind," he said. Adding that he wanted to "restore the luster and excellence of Cook County Hospital," he said, "I will work with any group to do that."

In May, Stroger nominated Winship, who was dean of the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University from 1990 to 1999. Winship, 70, is on leave from a job as a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri Health Care system while completing a fellowship at the Association of American Medical Colleges, in Washington.



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