Southlanders: We need more health care services
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
by Maura Possley
In South Holland on Monday night, Southlanders debated what
political heavyweights on Capitol Hill have wrangled over for weeks -
access to quality health care for all.
The public hearing
at South Suburban College was part of a tour by Cook County health care
officials to get input on how the county's health care system should
operate in the years ahead.
What services are lacking? What does the system do well?
Mother-to-be Kristen Whiteside, of Olympia Fields, can't find the
kind of obstetric care she wants for the upcoming birth of her
daughter. Seven months pregnant and covered by Medicaid, she wants the
personal care that many mothers expect.
"They don't know anything about you; they don't have any records of
you," she said of her physicians. "You want your doctor to know what's
going on with you. I don't feel any compassion."
Dr. Simon Piller, of the Robbins Health Center of Cook County, said
he's fighting an uphill battle to provide primary care for an
ever-increasing number of uninsured patients.
"We need to provide the proper staffing to take care of what's
coming at us," he told county officials. "We do feel we make a
difference but under very difficult circumstances."
A bedside nurse at Oak Forest Hospital, Brenda Langford said the
Southland needs more clinics to provide basic care for uninsured
patients who are now going to emergency rooms for such care. She also
bemoaned the decision this spring to move inpatient surgeries from Oak
Forest to Stroger Hospital on Chicago's West Side.
"They don't have the means or the transportation to get to Stroger Hospital," Langford said of Oak Forest Hospital patients.
Monday's night's hearing was the first of six throughout the county,
aimed at helping to create a strategic plan for the county's health and
hospitals system board - a nine-member panel created last year to
depoliticize the operation of Cook County's massive, cash-strapped
health care system.
County hospitals serve as a last resort for the poor and uninsured
population, but the system has struggled with budget cuts in recent
years. It represents the largest portion of the annual county budget -
this year, $882 million.
"The purpose of (Monday's meeting) was really to listen more than
anything to you," said William Foley, the system's chief executive
officer, told the audience. "We don't have all the answers."
Maura Possley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (708) 633-5993.