Cook County Health and Hospital System (CCHHS) senior administrators are considering closing the inpatient pediatric service at Stroger Hospital. Closing inpatient pediatrics would cause a public health catastrophe for the most vulnerable children in Cook County. Stroger Hospital is the only tertiary-level safety net hospital available to the community. Closing Stroger’s pediatrics unit would complicate access to a fundamental medical service and would require sending community members to find treatment at facilities that are unfamiliar, farther from home, and difficult to reach. Doctors Council pediatricians at Stroger, along with a coalition of nurses, other caregivers, patients, community allies, and elected leaders are standing together to tell Jay Shannon, CEO of Stroger to put Chicago’s children first and keep inpatient peds at Stroger open for care.
The administration believes closing the inpatient pediatrics unit would make good financial sense for the CCHHS and that they could use the money currently supporting inpatient pediatrics to help grow other services and build new facilities. However, administrators have been unclear as to how much money the CCHHS would actually save by closing the unit or whether and how new services and new facilities would benefit the community or the CCHHS.
Stroger Hospital is the area facility best equipped to treat the unique health needs of the community. It provides 22 subspecialty services such as child abuse pediatrics and its staff has expertise in addressing social determinants of health such as substance abuse, poor nutrition, domestic violence, homelessness, and other sequela of poverty.
Furthermore, inpatient pediatric service is the lynchpin for many other Stroger services. Closing inpatient pediatrics would undermine the delivery of health care throughout the hospital and the system. With no inpatient pediatric service, the hospital would have to close its Level I Pediatric Trauma Center and possibly its ABA Certified Burn Unit. With no pediatric inpatients, referrals to CCHHS pediatric subspecialties would likely decrease, creating a financial drain on these vital services. The move would destabilize the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as well as the Obstetrics and Gynecology unit. Eliminating inpatient pediatrics at Stroger also means eliminating internationally acclaimed CCHHS pediatric residency and fellowship programs which train future generations of public health physicians.
Outpatient pediatric visits to CCHHS clinics would likely decrease as well. Senior administrators dismiss the argument that sending would-be Stroger patients – even those enrolled in CountyCare – to other hospitals would be bad for business. They trust and expect that the other hospitals will send patients back to CCHHS clinics for follow-up treatment, but this line of thinking ignores patient choice. Based on current trends, it’s entirely reasonable to conclude that the families of patients who receive inpatient pediatric care in other hospitals will choose to continue their care within those health systems rather than return to the CCHHS.
CountyCare money that could be kept within the CCHHS will instead be diverted to other institutions. Eliminating inpatient pediatric services at Stroger Hospital would cut a hole in Chicago’s public health safety net, allowing the most vulnerable children of the community and their families to fall through.
Our coalition includes doctors, nurses, other caregivers, patients, community allies, and elected leaders:
We have met with several Cook County Commissioners, including Larry Suffredin, Richard Boykin, and Robert Steele, State Senator Patricia Van Pelt, and have scheduled a meeting with Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle, to continue to raise awareness of the adverse impact closing inpatient pediatrics at Stroger Hospital will undoubtedly have. We are continuing to schedule additional meetings to garner the support of county and state elected leaders and will be taking additional actions to prevent the closure of Stroger inpatient peds, but we also need your help!