Durbin takes on Stroger
Take hospital oversight from Stroger: panel
A committee backed by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin is preparing to recommend that direct oversight of Cook County's embattled health system be taken out of the hands of President Todd Stroger and the board of commissioners, according to people with knowledge of the panel's work.
Appointed by Mr. Stroger in the spring at the prodding of Mr. Durbin, the panel is expected to stress independent oversight as a key to stemming an unfolding crisis at the three-hospital system, which each year serves some 1 million residents, many of them indigent. The call for outside control is expected to be among dozens of recommendations from the nine-member group made up of local business and health care leaders, the sources say.
It would be the latest in a drumbeat of calls from outside groups urging greater expertise for the Cook County Bureau of Health Services, which is among the few public hospital systems in the nation controlled directly by politicians. But this proposal carries added weight because of Mr. Durbin, a fellow Democrat who's made clear that Mr. Stroger must take steps to fix the system before Illinois' congressional delegation works to secure more federal money (Crain's, May 14). Federal funding accounts for more than half of the system's patient revenue.
Health management experts say wresting budgetary and personnel decisions from the board president would eliminate politically connected hiring that critics contend has long bred ineptitude in the system. But the loss of patronage jobs would be a blow to Mr. Stroger.
It's unclear just how far the panel's recommendations will go, or what form of oversight it might call for. Larry Goodman, CEO of Rush University Medical Center and chairman of Mr. Stroger's blue-ribbon committee, says its report hasn't been finalized, adding, "It is not the right time to comment on what might or might not be in it."
But some county commissioners recently have warmed to the idea of ceding control of the health bureau to an outside group, at least temporarily, to oversee reforms. The 17-member county board must okay any change in oversight.
"I think more commissioners will support a change in governance as a way to pull out of the free fall we're in now and get this hospital system stabilized," says Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston. Commissioners Forrest Claypool, D-Chicago, and Gregg Goslin, R-Glenview, have expressed similar views.
Related Article Topics | Related Industry News
Mr. Stroger is "eagerly awaiting the analysis and recommendations" of the committee, his spokeswoman says. She declines to comment on the idea of independent governance for the health bureau.
The system is reeling from a $105-million cut in its current budget, to $724 million, which forced service cuts and nearly 1,000 layoffs, sapping morale among doctors and nurses.
Still, the health bureau is roughly $65 million off budget for the fiscal year, which ends Nov. 30, despite efforts by interim health chief Robert Simon to boost revenue by fixing a dysfunctional billing system and other problems.
A newly formed coalition of 50 non-profit groups, including a few powerful unions, also is calling for outside oversight.
"We think that's a necessary step to assure public trust," says John Cameron, political director for a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
And Remember when reading this that Cook County Commissioners Gorman and Peraica are both in the same Republican party
The record of Liz Gorman speaks for itself. She has proven herself to be a committed ally of the Democrats - a close associate of indicted political insider Ed Vrdolyak and the disgraced Shaw brothers.
Gorman also has been a staunch ally of Todd Stroger - recruiting Stroger's former spokesperson, Sean Howard (who was arrested last year for harassing a woman) to join her public relations team at the Cook County GOP. She supported Todd Stroger's disastrous budget. She has supported the Stroger position against numerous and even bi-partisan reform efforts. She has gone out of her way to oust good Republicans from Cook County GOP committeeman positions - in favor of Democrat shills that will toe her "party line."
Liz Gorman's motives are clear: she is smearing me now to provide herself a reason to slate a primary opponent against me for State's Attorney. Rest assured that any Liz Gorman-backed candidate will be an enemy of reform, and a friend of the corrupt, Democratic machine.