Preckwinkle lashes out at county health board

June 1, 2011

Download Story
(WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)
President Toni Preckwinkle, appearing with health system CEO Terry Mason, said communication efforts were "abysmal."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle had some cutting words Wednesday for some of her fellow officials, as the county retrenches following failed efforts to close a south suburban hospital. 

Preckwinkle laid much of the blame on the independent board that oversees the health and hospitals system. She said the board failed to make the case for closing the hospital and replacing it with a regional outpatient clinic.

“Quite frankly, our health care system has done an abysmal job of explaining its strategic plan to the public and winning support for it,” she said.

She knocked the health system for doing little outreach and not enlisting supporters to speak out. The health system did hold extensive public meetings, but Preckwinkle called them “abysmally ineffective.” A spokesman for the health system declined to comment on Preckwinkle’s barbs.

Preckwinkle also had an icy assessment of Governor Pat Quinn’s role in the matter.

“The kindest thing I can say is I’m disappointed,” she said.

Quinn’s office didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

A last-ditch effort to pass legislation that would let the County close the hospital faded in Springfield Tuesday, handing Preckwinkle a legislative defeat.

The south suburban hospital will keep its emergency room and its handful of long-term care patients. Interim health system CEO Terry Mason says that will cost money.

“It is money that will have to come from somewhere else, either in the system or from the County,” Mason said. “It could mean fewer services in another community, or closing other community clinics.”

Mason put the price tag at about $2 million a month above what’s in the budget, but he gave few details to explain that number. Closing the hospital had been expected to save the county $10 million over the next six months.

County officials said they would take their case back to state regulators later this year, with some concessions to opponents, such as providing 24-hour-a-day urgent care services.