Health care workers want county to focus on patient care

Five candidates running for Cook County Board president debated health issues at a forum Tuesday in downtown Chicago. (L-R): Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, John Garrido, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, current President Todd Stroger and Tom Tresser. Candidates Terrence O'Brien and Roger A. Keats did not appear.
Lisa Owad/Medill

By Lisa Owad
Jan. 13, 2010
Medill News Service

A decline in the quality of patient care at Chicago hospitals was a key concern for health care professionals attending a debate featuring candidates for Cook County Board president on Tuesday. The forum, held at Chicago’s First United Methodist Church downtown, was sponsored by the Emergency Network to Save Cook County Health Services, a group formed in 2007.

In October the independent board overseeing Cook County’s health system unveiled a ontroversial plan to roll back inpatient services at Oak Forest Hospital. The plan also would eliminate 700 vacant positions and lay off 300 additional health care workers throughout the county. 

Nurses attending the debate were concerned that the changes, designed to save money, were compromising patient care.

“When you’ve got nurses being cut every day,” said Irene Marks, an advanced practice nurse at Stroger Hospital, “then you are really putting the patient at a disadvantage. That is what’s increasing the long waits and the long lines.”

Martese Chism, also a nurse at Stroger, agreed that the cuts were affecting patient care.

“If you’re sick, you shouldn’t come to a hospital and have to stand in line for 30 hours to receive service.”

“We’re looking for the candidate that’s going to provide the best care and stick to our mission statement as close as possible,” Chism said.

Nurses also are concerned with the relationship between the County Board president and the county’s independent review board.

The candidates at the forum: Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, John Garrido, Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Tom Tresser, and current board President Todd Stroger, generally agreed on the need for the independent review board. Ald. Preckwinkle said that she had pledged to retain the review board, trusting them to be the experts.

“There’s already oversight in place,” she said. “I am not a health care professional.”

Marks disagreed. “I think the president has to have oversight of anybody that they put in place. [Otherwise] you’re saying that you’re just going to take what they say just as gospel,” she said. “Then you’re not doing the oversight that we are actually appointing you to do.”

The primary election for Cook County Board president is on Feb. 2.

See this article at the Medill News Service

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