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County suggests ways to solve crowding problem at hospital

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Cook County Board President John Stroger said Tuesday the county's hospitals need more beds to ease crowding at Stroger Hospital.

But the president's critics said deeper changes are needed in the way the county provides health care for the poor.

The hospital is constantly operating at between 95 percent and 100 percent capacity. Patients sometimes wait hours for a room.

Stroger Hospital's medical/surgical unit is facing the worst of the crowding. President Stroger said he's going to ask the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board to certify some of the unused specialty-care beds at county-run Provident Hospital for medical/surgical use.

"We used to say when a hospital had 70 percent occupancy, it was in bad shape," Stroger said. "So we're in terrible shape."

But Stroger said the quality of care at Stroger Hospital has not suffered and its good reputation is one of the reasons it remains crowded.

Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Roberto Maldonado disagreed Tuesday, saying the hospital is dirty and the staff rude. Both Chicago Democrats are considering runs for county president next year.

Claypool is calling for an overhaul of the entire county health system, creating partnerships with private community hospitals.

"We want to provide health care closer to where people live," Claypool said. "That will ease some of the pressure on Stroger Hospital."

Money for new programs can be found within the county's bureau of health services, Claypool said, which is "filled with bureaucrats and redundant services" and from other wasteful programs throughout county government.

"He's a fool," Stroger said of Claypool. "Those guys are crazy. There's no waste."

Maldonado, chairman of the board's Stroger Hospital subcommittee, thinks the hospital's biggest problem is with long delays at the pharmacy.

He plans to hold a hearing today in the hospital's cafeteria, where he expects patients to testify that it takes longer than a week for prescriptions to be filled. Maldonado wants the hospital to hire more pharmacists and support personnel.

Stroger said all pharmacies need time to fill prescriptions and the hospital is dealing with thousands of patients who often need multiple medications.

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