Cook County Health bud­get Rx: 130 lay­offs, close 2 clin­ics, move their services to Prov­i­dent Hos­pi­tal

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY RACHEL HIN­TON, PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER rhin­ton@sun­times.com | @rrhin­ton

Cook County Health of­fi­cials out­lined plans Fri­day to fill a $187 mil­lion bud­get gap for 2021 by shut­ter­ing two clin­ics and mov­ing their op­er­a­tions to Prov­i­dent Hos­pi­tal and lay­ing off about 130 em­ploy­ees through­out the health care sys­tem.

Un­der the pro­posed bud­get, services of­fered at the Wood­lawn and Near South Health Cen­ters will be moved from their cur­rent lo­ca­tions, at 6337 S. Wood­lawn Ave. and 3525 S. Michi­gan Ave., to Prov­i­dent at 500 E 51st St., be­gin­ning Dec. 1.

No jobs are be­ing cut be­cause of the merger of the two clin­ics’ services. But 46 work­ers have al­ready been laid off in other ar­eas, with roughly an­other 84 fac­ing lay­offs.

De­bra Carey, the sys­tem’s in­terim CEO, said it wasn’t “an easy task” to put to­gether the pro­posed bud­get.

“I will also tell you that more dras­tic ac­tions or op­tions may be the only course for fu­ture bud­gets,” Carey said, not­ing that some would “sug­gest that we look else­where for ex­pense re­duc­tions.”

“We are mak­ing de­ci­sions that need to be made to en­sure our long-term vi­a­bil­ity, and with­out new rev­enues new re­sources, we find our­selves in a zero-sum sit­u­a­tion,” Carey said.

Carey said she and other of­fi­cials in the health sys­tem “are all ears” for ideas, but the days of only cut­ting “what we can live with­out” are over.

The sys­tem also faces “new chal­lenges,” such as fi­nan­cial pres­sures from the pan­demic, as well as the usual struc­tural is­sues, such as pro­vid­ing 50% of the county’s char­ity care.

Un­til a so­lu­tion is found for the struc­tural deficit the county faces, “ev­ery bud­get mov­ing for­ward will be a chal­lenge,” Carey said.

Though the sys­tem will have to trim its bud­get, of­fi­cials also found money for new dial­y­sis and life cen­ters that will be lo­cated at the Prov­i­dent Hos­pi­tal cam­pus. Andrea Gib­son, the sys­tem’s in­terim chief business of­fi­cer, said “an im­prove­ment and an in­crease” in out­pa­tient services was the rea­son be­hind the de­ci­sion.

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