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  Cook County Hospital fills more outpatient prescriptions every day than are filled at 26 Walgreen's drug store combined.

Oak Forest hospital gets new pharmacy

Monday, March 02, 2009
by Maura Possley

The three-hour wait Southlanders endure to get medications at Oak Forest Hospital should shrink thanks to a new pharmacy opening Monday, Cook County officials said.

The new, modernized outpatient pharmacy at the hospital replaces a slow, delay-plagued system that patients, pharmacists and hospital executives can't wait to make a memory.

"This is pharmacy heaven," said Warren Batts, chairman of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System board, at Friday's ribbon cutting of the new facility.

Officials at the Friday event characterized the pharmacy as a symbol of the county's commitment to maintain health care services in the Southland.

"No corner will be left out," said county board President Todd Stroger. "Oak Forest will do fine in the future."

Their comments come after last month's announcement that inpatient surgical services at Oak Forest would be cut and moved to Stroger Hospital on Chicago's near West Side while Oak Forest's outpatient procedures would be increased to earn more revenue for the system.

However, at least one proposal considered by the hospital board that was outlined in a memo obtained by the SouthtownStar indicated the hospital's outpatient surgery would be axed.

But on Friday, a spokesman for the hospital system said there are no plans to end outpatient surgeries.

Spokesman Marcel Bright explained the memo might have been an outdated document from a period last year when county health authorities were considering a range of plans to improve county health services. Not every option met with approval, including the idea to cut outpatient services, he said.

"Once a plan was developed, anything that doesn't fit was obviously discarded and not included," Bright said.

Also on Friday, Bright could not say how much money the county spent on the new expanded hospital pharmacy, though he and other county officials touted its new features.

The new 2,600-square-foot facility replaces a 300-square-foot, three-room pharmacy that was so inadequate patients had to wait about three hours to get prescriptions filled. The new pharmacy should be able to fill requests in an hour.

Also, officials want the current 1 p.m. cut-off time for same-day service to be extended later into the afternoon to get more patients their pills faster, said Marty Grant, director of pharmacy hospitals system.

Patients will be able to sit while they wait, through an automated queue system, instead of leaning against a hospital wall.

The automated system, much like that of the Department of Motor Vehicles, allows officials to monitor wait times.

Also, two robotic machines that fill prescriptions electronically will help speed the process and reduce errors, though the hospital has had the machines in place for several years.

"We help a lot of people who have nowhere else to go," Grant said. "We need to make sure we stay strong."

Maura Possley can be reached at or (708) 633-5993.

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