Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Health and Hospital System Chief Executive Officer Dr. Terry Mason called a meeting of faith and community leaders from the Chicago and surrounding suburbs on Thursday morning. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future of the Cook County Health and Hospital System and the importance of moving forward with plans to transform Oak Forest into a regional outpatient center.
Directly following the meeting, President Preckwinkle and Dr. Mason stood with several faith and community leaders to address their support of the transformation plan of Oak Forest and Senate Bill 40, the amendment sponsored by Representative Barbara Flynn Currie.
“We called this meeting to ensure that there was a direct dialogue with faith and community leaders throughout the region. Dr. Mason and I are committed to working with local leaders, churches, and community groups to provide information on the transformation plan for Oak Forest and how to access the expanded services offered by the new Regional Outpatient Center.”
“We are here today to express our support for the System’s thoughtful and comprehensive strategic planning efforts, which have resulted in the proposed transformation of the Oak Forest campus into a comprehensive Regional Outpatient Center. A core goal of the System’s Strategic Plan is to maximize access to quality health care given our available resources,” said Preckwinkle.
The group also vocalized their strong support for Representative Barbara Flynn Currie’s amendment – Senate Bill 40 – which is currently being considered in Springfield.
The passage of Representative Currie’s current amendment (Senate Bill 40) would allow preventive and urgent care medical services to exist for tens of thousands of patients per year. The Cook County Health and Hospitals system serves the second largest county in the United States. Quite simply, the Health and Hospitals system has the expertise but needs the flexibility to enact strategic reforms to provide better service to more people in need.
“The transformation of Oak Forest is not a matter of simply cutting costs – it’s a plan to provide more effective and efficient health care to people who need it the most,” said Preckwinkle.
Oak Forest is currently an underutilized facility. Oak Forest Hospital is authorized for 213 beds – however, over the last year, the daily average census has 25%. On May 23, Oak Forest Hospital had 39 inpatients—or 18.3% capacity.
Under the CCHHS Strategic Plan, Oak Forest Hospital will be transformed into a Regional Outpatient Center (ROC) that will still allow residents to fill prescriptions but will focus on preventative care, by providing access to specialists to promote early disease detection while utilizing local taxpayer dollars more efficiently.
Current long-term inpatients will be transferred to alternative living facilities, where the Cook County Health and Hospitals System will pay for their care.
“Access to outpatient specialty care for the uninsured and under-insured is hardly just a Cook County problem, or a State of Illinois problem, but a well-documented national health policy issue. Our Strategic Plan addresses this issue responsibly and with foresight by providing more primary care and specialty care than is currently available in the Southland,” said Dr. Terry Mason, interim CEO. “The implementation of a Regional Outpatient Center at Oak Forest will expand access for thousands of Southland resident to specialty services like Cardiology, Neurology, Urology, Gastroenterology, Ophthalmology, Podiatry, and many others.
“These are important services – along with more preventative care – that are sorely needed in the Southland area.”
Mason said the proposed expansion at Oak Forest would result in almost four times as many patients being served. Many of the services that residents need to travel to John H. Stroger Jr Hospital for currently would be available in the ROC, making services more conveniently located for our patients. Additionally, the transformation plan would allow for Oak Forest to increase its outpatient services. Last year, Oak Forest provided approximately 52,000 outpatient visits. The Transformation Plan will allow the Oak Forest Regional Outpatient Center to service an additional 30,000 Southland residents per year.
The estimated $25 to 40 million the System would save annually will help increase outpatient capacity, develop new service lines, invest in IT and building infrastructure, and otherwise improve System operations.
Apostle Carl. L. White Jr of Victory Christian Assembly and Southland Ministerial Health Network spoke for the group and voiced his support for the plans for Oak Forest and Senate Bill 40. “After meeting with President Toni Preckwinkle, we have gotten clarity about the plans to increase services through outpatient specialty services at Oak Forest. We have signed on in support of Senate Bill 40.
During the meeting, the President agreed to form a South Suburban Advisory Council and pledged to continue discussions about how outpatient services are operating so that we can ensure residents of the South Suburbs receive quality health care. We urge state elected officials to help make this happen by signing onto SB 40.”
Those in attendance at today’s meeting included the following:
- Apostle Carl L. White Jr, Victory Christian Assembly and Southland Ministerial Health Network
- Minister Moriel McClerklin, Executive Director, Crossroads Coalition
- Pastor Jeffrey Mullins, Health Care Consortium of Illinois
- Apostle Dr. G.E Bradshaw, Southland Ministerial Health Network
- Bishop Lance Davis, New Zion Christian Fellowship, Southland Ministerial Health Network
- Dr. Byron T. Brazier, Apostolic Church of God
- Bishop Simon Gordon, Triedstone Full Gospel Church
- Kimberly Hobson, Southside Healthcare Collaborative, University of Chicago Medical Center
- Pastor Greg Livingston, Mission of Faith Baptist Church, Citizen Action Illinois
- Rev. Dr. Leon Finney, Metropolitan Apostolic Church
Many health organizations, clinics and hospitals have signed letters in support of the transformation plan, including the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the Illinois Primary Healthcare Association (which represents all the FQHCs in Illinois), 8 individual area FQHCs, the South Side Healthcare Collaborative (which includes roughly 30 clinics and 5 hospitals serving the South Side of Chicago), Access Illinois, Advocate South Suburban, Advocate Trinity, South Shore Hospital (which will be able to assume 90% of the annual medical/surgical and ICU admissions of Oak Forest), Ingalls Memorial, Jackson Park, Holy Cross, Mercy Hospital, Silver Cross Hospital and MetroSouth Hospital.
County Board President Preckwinkle is also supporting the application of MetroSouth Hospital, in Blue Island, for a Class 8b tax incentive to help finance the hospital’s effort to rehabilitate its facilities and expand inpatient and outpatient services. The Class 8b exemption, another investment by the County in the health and wellness of south side and south suburban residents, will save the hospital $4 million over the life of the tax credit.