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County's latest plan for Oak Forest Hospital rejected by state board's staff


From the Chicago Tribune, August 3, 2011:

Planning board, with vacancies filled, will vote again Aug. 16

By Erika Slife, Tribune reporter

August 3, 2011

The Cook County health system's contentious plan to transform Oak Forest Hospital into a regional outpatient clinic has again been rebuffed by the staff of the state's hospital planning board.

But county officials plan to press ahead with an Aug. 16 vote by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board on the latest version of their proposal. Including Tuesday's report, the board's professional staff members have now recommended against the county plan three times this year, citing concerns that discontinuing hospital services would have an "adverse impact" on the south suburbs.

"We aren't surprised by the staff recommendation but still believe that the transformation … makes the most sense to serve more of the Southland residents," said Lucio Guerrero, spokesman for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.

In May, the state hospital board followed its staff recommendation and denied the county's plan to turn the hospital into an outpatient clinic with primary care doctors, specialists and diagnostic testing. The plan failed by one vote, and several board vacancies have since been filled.

The county now is offering to operate a 24-hour urgent care center. The addition was a concession to patient advocates and unions that have opposed the county's plan, saying it will hurt health care for those who need it most.

The health board's staff was not swayed, however.

"The proposed discontinuation will increase the number of (intensive care units) and long-term care beds needed in the planning area," the report said. "Given the large number of safety-net patients Oak Forest Hospital provides service for, it does appear that the proposed discontinuation will have an adverse impact on the access to care in the service area."

Patient advocates applauded the staff's recommendation.

"For the third time, the state oversight board's staff has reached the same conclusion: that the closure of Oak Forest Hospital would leave Cook County south suburban residents without adequate access to intensive care and long-term care beds, while further overburdening other area hospitals," William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois, said in a statement.

The county hospital system wants to close the hospital as part of its long-range plan to overhaul services countywide. The county had been set to close the hospital June 1.

Since the state board rejected the county's plan, it has cost the county health system $2 million a month to maintain an emergency room and inpatient beds.

Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune


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