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Oak Forest Hospital 'moving day' still on target

Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Guy Tridgell Staff writer

Cook County is moving ahead with plans to empty Oak Forest Hospital of its most severely injured patients by Sept. 1.
The Cook County Board today will vote on two contracts totaling $18.8 million with New York Boys Management LLC. The company, based in Crown Point, Ind., would be in charge of relocating the hospital's long-term patients to private nursing facilities and overseeing their care for the next three years.
When the county announced earlier this year it was dropping long-term medical care as part of sweeping budget cuts, 220 patients called Oak Forest Hospital home.
A Cook County spokesman said 114 patients, including many who are paralyzed and indigent, remain at the hospital at 159th Street and Cicero Avenue. A large portion of them are illegal immigrants who do not qualify for Medicare and remain dependent on funding from the county.
At a rally Monday, Cook County Commissioner Robert Maldonado called on his fellow board members to reject the contracts. Maldonado, who called the proposal an "atrocity," said the county also failed to get approval from state regulators before proceeding with its plans.
"It has to stop," said Maldonado, surrounded by about 40 patients, activists and hospital employees.
Cook County spokesman Steve Mayberry said moving the patients to other facilities translates into a savings of $500 a day per patient. He expressed confidence the county soon will receive a final OK from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.
Several patients and doctors at Oak Forest Hospital said the turmoil is taking its toll.
One patient contracted pneumonia after moving to a nursing home in Calumet City during a rainstorm.
Glenn Wise, a paralyzed patient who moved into the hospital 18 years ago, said the county is pressuring him daily to leave.
"They are telling people they need to find a place to live now or all the nice places will be filled," Wise said. "They had told us all through the years, 'This is your home, you have nothing to worry about.' "


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