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Patient Care Has Been Gutted at Oak Forest Hospital. Now What?

Southtown columnist Phil Kadner asks the tough questions and introduces you to the people who rely on Oak Forest Hospital.

Cook County has been shutting down Oak Forest Hospital for months now, peeling away services as it prepares to turn the building at 159th Street and Cicero Avenue into an outpatient facility.

All county officials needed was the approval of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

June 1 would be the fateful day.

Sick, needy people now being cared for at the hospital and their families were earnest in their opposition. A south suburban pastor even staged a hunger strike in front of the building.

Last week, one man from downstate Urbana thwarted the county's plan — 63-year-old Ronald Eaker, founder of the Consumers’ Health Care Task Force in Champaign County, a former United Methodist minister, a former nursing home administrator and a member of the Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

His lone opposition vote stopped the county's plan in its tracks.

"It is a nutshell of what’s wrong with health care in America,” Eaker said of the plan, adding that he didn't trust Cook County to follow through on its promises of help for the south suburban folks who now rely on Oak Forest Hospital.

Who else sticks up for the little guy?

In recent weeks, Southtown columnist Phil Kadner has steadfastly given a voice to those who often go unheard by powerful decision makers. In a series of columns, he's laid out what's at stake in the battle to close Oak Forest Hospital and what this means to the Southland.

What County Hospital Means to the Poor: “People are sick now. We need to take care of them now," says Carl Wolf, executive director of Respond Now, a social service agency that helps the Southland's needy.

A One-Vote ‘Miracle’ Keeps Hospital Open: "Cook County has gutted patient care at Oak Forest Hospital, writes Kadner. "The real miracle would be if officials now move to improve health care there."

Patient Places Her Life Over the Big Picture: “Oak Forest Hospital saved my life,” says Colette Quinones. “The people there saved my husband’s life. People in the south suburbs who don’t have health insurance need Oak Forest Hospital to stay open.”

County Hospital Officials Still Short on Answers: Phil suggested moving county health administrators to Oak Forest Hospital, a sprawling campus of 40 buildings. "I figured that county hospital officials would jump at the chance ... thereby saving millions for patient care," Phil writes. "Instead Dr. Terry Mason, the interim chief operating officer of the county health care system, and Randall Mark, director of intergovernmental affairs and policy for the system, just laughed."

He Tried to Save Hospital But ‘It’s Time to Give Up’: “They’ve already told half the nurses here that they’re going to be gone before the next state hearing," says Glenn Wise, a quadriplegic who says the facility is being taken apart around him. County officials were recently asked about a $25,000 pay raise for Oak Forest Hospital's administrator. They couldn't explain the raise.

When you're sick and poor, no one wants to listen to you. Phil Kadner will.

Dennis Robaugh is editor of Patch's south suburban region. You can reach him at dennisr@patch.com. You can follow Southland Savvy on Twitter and Facebook.

james eichorst May 16, 2011 at 11:37 AM
shame on the goverment.remember this come election time.
anthony May 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Why should the area of Illinois with the most low income and uninsured residents be exempt from any law that seeks to protect access to care and quality care?" Because as a nation we are not even in the top 30 in health care efficiency http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html because our doctors are the highest paid in the world http://www.worldsalaries.org/generalphysician.shtml because from the most mundane items to "wonder drugs" the mark up is regularly 80 to 150 times higher than the cost to produce and the general income of non healthcare workers is in decline http://www.cfr.org/health-science-and-technology/healthcare-costs-us-competitiveness/p13325 So it should not be a surprise in a climate where a large percentage of the population declares bankruptcy from medical bills to stay alive, that those who cannot pay would be left to their fate ARE THESE DOCTORS AND NURSES SO GIFTED or are they as mercenary Every prescription every referral demands a PERCENTAGE they size you up in dollar signs as soon as you enter the office

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