Community Coalition Holds Bake Sale to Keep John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital Pediatric Services Open

For Immediate Release
October 6, 2015

Contact: Marti Smith, 312-607-8619

On Wednesday, October 7, a coalition of registered nurses, physicians, community members and elected officials will stand alongside Cook County children, as they hold a bake sale and press conference dedicated to keeping John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital inpatient and emergency pediatric services open.

John Jay Shannon, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Cook County Health and Hospital Services, recently voiced his intention to close inpatient and emergency pediatric services at Stroger Hospital—a move participating organizations and community members say would be detrimental to the youngest, most vulnerable patients in the community.

“Cuts such as these are simply ill-conceived austerity measures, further exacerbating the already huge gaps in healthcare accessibility to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society,” said Toby Chow, of participating organization The People’s Lobby.  “We stand with the children of Cook County and call upon the commissioners to continue to fully fund the Cook County healthcare system.”

Nurses, physicians and community members point out that John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital provides one quarter of the total Pediatric Level One Trauma capacity in Cook County and one third of the pediatric burn care capacity—as well as inpatient general pediatric and pediatric intensive care services—and question how those services could be replaced, in the face of the potential shut down.

“It is critically important that we maintain the current high standard of care for our most vulnerable children,” said Stroger pediatrician Marjorie Fujara, MD.  “These cuts in services will have catastrophic public health implications.”

What:             Bake sale/press event to keep John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital inpatient andemergency pediatric services open
When:            Wednesday October 7, 9 a.m.
Where:           In front of the County Building, 118 North Clark Street, Chicago 

Dr. Shannon’s plan calls for immediate closure of the pediatric emergency department and consolidation of general pediatric and pediatric intensive care unit beds.  As a result, coalition members say, children with emergent medical issues will wait longer for care (which may or may not be provided by a pediatric emergency physician) and experience overcrowding in units with adult patients and children who have general health issues—as opposed to a quiet, solitary environment dedicated to children who have life-threatening conditions.

“Our children are not a profit center,” said Rochelle Lowe, an RN at Stroger Hospital.  “Every bed in our pediatric emergency department, pediatric unit and pediatric intensive care unit is needed in times of outbreak or disaster.  We must look towards a solution that provides the best care, not the cheapest care.”

While hospital management has cited decreased utilization of pediatric emergency and inpatient services as a reason to shut them down, coalition members emphasize that the hospital must take into account the number of beds needed to care for Cook County children during periods of high census—which occur several times each year.  During these high census periods, children would be diverted to private sector facilities, which would, in all likelihood, also be filled nearly to capacity—preventing access to safe, timely, quality healthcare.

Lack of funding has also been cited as a reason to discontinue these services. However, coalition members point out that according to the hospital’s own board of directors, 95 percent of Cook County children are covered by a payer source such as Medicaid, which provides reimbursement to Stroger, a public hospital where families count on their children being able to access care.

These same patients would not fare as well in the private system, coalition members say. According to studies, including a 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients with government insurance can experience longer waiting times and reduced access to care in the private system.

“Thinking of pediatric services as just another service line is anathema to the philosophy behind a public health system,” said Sonja Rotenburg, of Illinois Single Payer Coalition.  “We need to get back to focusing on how we provide healthcare as a human right, one single standard of care, regardless of ability to pay.”

Organizations that will be represented at the bake sale and press conference include: National Nurses United/National Nurses Organizing Committee, Doctors Council, IIRON, Reclaim Chicago, The People’s Lobby, SEIU Local 73, Citizen Action Illinois, Illinois Single Payer Coalition, United Methodist Women, Minority Students for the Advancement of Public Health, and Students for Health Equity.

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