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Outside probe of hospital, juvenile center blocked

Friday, September 09, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Allies of Cook County Board President John Stroger blocked an effort Thursday to bring in independent auditors to review the management at Provident Hospital and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Both county-run facilities have been slapped with harsh criticism from supervising agencies, but a majority of the County Board wants the problems handled in-house.

During a six-hour meeting, Stroger interrupted many criticisms by attacking commissioners and threatening to cut their staffs and close their district offices because they "spend all [their] time trying to embarrass the administration."

In July, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed state inspections found that "significant" health code violations at Provident have put patients "at risk for serious harm or death."

And last month, the Sun-Times revealed reports of abuse, questionable hires and staff conduct at the 450-bed juvenile detention center, with criticism coming from outside entities such as the ACLU about patronage bringing unqualified workers to the center.

Though Commissioners Forrest Claypool, Larry Suffredin, Tony Peraica, Peter Silvestri and Liz Gorman introduced a measure to bring in independent auditors, Commissioners Joseph M. Moreno and Joan Murphy derailed the plan before it could gain momentum.

'Stealing' food hinted

But Commissioner Earlean Collins was successful in setting a public meeting next week to document problems at the juvenile detention center and ways to reform the troubled facility. She's also won approval for an independent panel, appointed by Stroger but approved by the full board, to review all operations at the juvenile center.

And while Provident staffers have made changes to bring the hospital into compliance, Commissioner Mike Quigley complained that "we still don't know what happened and how it got that way."

Unresolved issues remain at the juvenile detention center, which spent $1.5 million of its $1.7 million for food services by July 31, drawing questions from Peraica about employees "stealing" food.

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