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Protest threat of city health clinic privatization

City clinic clients and community supporters will protest Tuesday against the threat of privatization at an event where Mayor Emanuel and Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair are speaking on “Transforming Healthcare in Chicago.”

Southside Together Organizing for Power and others – who stopped city efforts to close mental health clinics two years ago – will rally at 10 a.m., Tuesday, August 16, at the University Clulb, 76 E. Monroe.

Emanuel is said to be set to unveil a plan for the city’s health services next week [correction: it’s being released Tuesday, August 16].  In July he said he’d identified millions of dollars of savings by ordering city health clinics to partner with federally-qualified health centers, private nonprofits that operate clinics under federal grants and guidelines.

No details on how those savings would be accomplished have yet been forthcoming.

But last month, the city’s labor relations director wrote AFSCME Council 31 saying the city is considering contracting out services provided by its community health centers – and that job losses for union members could be expected.

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Charge County ‘Dumping’ Patients

As concern mounts that Cook County is “dumping” disabled patients from Oak Forest Hospital’s long-term care unit, the scheduled closing of the unit may have to be postponed

A spokesperson for the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board said today that the county’s application to close the unit had been deemed incomplete and returned by the board.

After a completed application is accepted, the board has 60 days to review the closing and to hold public hearings if they are requested. That could make it difficult to get on the agenda at the board’s August 28 meeting.

The long-term care unit, which housed 220 severely disabled patients, was slated to close September 1. Last week a County spokesman expressed confidence that the IHFPB would give final approval to the closing “soon.”

Scores of patients, including many who are paralyzed, have already been transferred to nursing homes. All transfers have been voluntary, according to statements by interim health chief Robert Simon at County Board meetings. Others dispute that.

“So far as the families [of patients] that we’ve talked to, none of the transfers has been done voluntarily,” said Kathleen Oskandy, an aide to County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado.

She said patients’ families are being told they have a deadline of two to three weeks to move. “They’re being pressured,” she said. “It’s troubling.” They also have reports that patients are being sent “to facilities that are not providing proper care,” she said.

Maldonado has called for a moratorium on transfers until the closing is approved.

“They are not leaving voluntarily,” said Horacio Esparza, director of Progress Center South, an independent living center in Park Forest. He called on commissioners to follow up with patients who have been discharged to determine the terms under which they were moved as well as how they are currently faring.

“It’s not just about money; these are human beings,” he said.

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