About this blog


Daily News public health reporter Alex Parker follows the Cook County hospital system, as well as anything that involves doctors, nurses, and diseases in Chicago.

Recent posts


Health system shows huge revenue gains, though few attend budget hearing

In the first of four public hearings on the Cook County Health and Hospitals System’s 2010 budget, the tension that dominated recent budget discussions in county board chambers was nowhere to be found.

In fact, it was hard to detect a pulse at Provident Hospital last night, despite the fact that health system board members control the county's second largest budget - nearly $1 billion in taxpayer dollars.

However, health system leaders told those at the sparsely attended event that the system's increased patient volume and negotiations with government leaders has led to increased revenue this year, and a projected...more

Health system forum seeks feedback from Spanish speakers

The Cook County Health and Hospitals System is holding a public meeting to address the concerns of Spanish-speaking residents tonight at 6 p.m. at the West Side Technical Institute, 2800 S. Western.

The meeting is part of a series of town hall forums health system leaders have hosted in an attempt to get feedback on what Cook County residents want from their hospitals.

The health system’s board of directors is devising a strategic plan, which will take into account concerns from residents.

More information is available on the health system’s new Web site, www.cookcountyhealth.net.

Federal grant boosts HIV research in Chicago

Three Chicago health institutions are making the city one of the country’s leading centers of HIV and AIDS research, thanks to a five-year, $3.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The Developmental Center for AIDS Research, an institution that will integrate basic science, clinical studies and research in prevention, detection and treatment of HIV and AIDS, will be led by Rush University Medical Center. Also on board are the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.

“With this grant, we have an unparalleled opportunity to make Chicago an epicenter for AIDS research,”...more

For swine flu, neighbors say health "starts with us"

As Pastor Walter Coleman launched into a tale from scripture – the one about the 10 virgins, five of whom didn’t have enough lamp oil and thus missed out on meeting an eligible groom – he came to a blunt conclusion: “That’s scripture’s way of saying we have to be prepared.”

And preparedness was the message du jour last week at Humboldt Park Vocational Center, 1645 N. California, where church leaders, nurses, teachers and Alderman Roberto Maldonado (D-26) and State Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) gathered to talk about how community members can prepare themselves – and their neighbors –...more

What's your favorite swine flu PSA?

Swine flu, the first pandemic of the YouTube age, was blogged, tweeted, interactively graphed and Facebooked unlike any other ailment.

Now it's getting the YouTube treatment.

The Department of Health and Human Services is asking you to vote on your favorite swine flu public service announcement on YouTube.

The top 10 are ready to be voted upon. The polls close Sept. 16.

Health system budget hearings begin Tuesday

The public is invited to provide feedback to the Cook County Health and Hospital System regarding its 2010 budget.

The health system provided a preliminary budget to the county board this week. It includes a 19 percent reduction in tax subsidies from its 2009 budget. Under the preliminary budget, the health system would not receive about $80 million in county tax subsidies and 500 jobs would be eliminated.

County spokesman James Ramos says the budget, however, is $39 million more than the health system's 2009 budget.

The public hearings take place:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 8 -- 6:30 p.m., Provident Hospital...more

Health system confirms layoffs

It doesn’t matter that Cook County’s sales tax increase was upheld Wednesday. Layoffs at the Cook County Health and Hospital System are going to happen, according to a budget presented to the board that slashes the system’s county tax subsidies by nearly 20 percent. More than 1,800 jobs will be eliminated by next spring.

Health system spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed yesterday that about 500 more jobs will be eliminated, in addition to the 900 that are already being eliminated.

He said no determination has been made regarding which positions will be cut, nor will officials know until a consultant releases...more

Project to aid mentally ill Hispanics

In an effort to bridge the cultural gap between mental health specialists and Hispanic patients, the Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology have announced an effort to build a network of specially trained care providers.

The Latino Mental Health Providers Network, funded by a $130,000 grant, will be run by the Chicago School’s Center for Latino Mental Health. Dr. Hector Torres, the center’s coordinator, says the lack of cultural understanding by clinicians is an understated matter.

“The issue sometimes sounds like, ‘Oh, they just want someone they like.’ Some people minimize the issue,” he says. 


Tuesday health links: Get your flu shots! edition

Flu shots at Walgreen's begin today. Find your location HERE. (Sun-Times)

Advocate vying for downstate hospital. (Crain's)

Whole Foods' health industry ties muddy column debate. (Muckety)

Free-standing clinics are booming. (TIME).

Not even Twitter and Trent Reznor could overcome red tape to save this man's life. (NYTimes)

CDPH offers free home radon testing. (Examiner)

The problems with Great Lakes' restoration. (Oh My Gov!)

Commissioners split on health department move

Where, oh where, will the Cook County Department of Public Health call home?

Cook County Commissioners Peter Silvestri and Earlean Collins today sought to strike down a proposal by the health department to move from its current Oak Park location to Oak Forest in 2011, an undertaking that could cost as much as $5 million. The resolution to prevent the move, presented at this morning’s health and hospital committee meeting, failed with five votes yea and nay, and six commissioners absent.

County health department chief Stephen Martin says the move would bring the health department closer to homeland security...more

Health news round up: Chicago and swine flu edition

CDPH study shows minorities are more affected by swine flu. (WSJ/LATimes/Trib)

AIDS activists press Stroger on HIV vaccine. (WBBM-AM)

Jewel-Osco adds specialized pharmacy services. (Trib)

A new device spells relief for emphysema patients. (WLS)

Kennedy's ties to Chicago included health care. (Sun-Times)

Is Mark Kirk lying about health care? (Chicagoist)

Steve Rhodes on Mayor Daley's "mental health moment." (NBC5)

A renewed debate on circumcision. (Trib)

Report questions US hospitals' swine flu readiness. (NephrOnline)

Suburban hospital focuses on bilingual care. (STNG)

How the nursing shortage affects UK nurses. (...more

Health news: Daley mum on mental health edition

Angry advocates ask Daley for answers about mental health centers last night. They didn't get any. (Sun-Times)

Hospitals try to ease fears of kids before they go into surgery. (Trib)

New law allows people to self-treat for STDs. (Journal-Star)

Suburban Sun-Times reader blogs his way to fitness. (Sun-Times)

Kennedy's health care legacy. (WSJ)

Senators investigate hospital purchasing. (NYTimes)

Smokers' taste buds are smaller than non-smokers'. (Sun-Times)

Study: Doctors don't know which drugs aren't FDA-approved

The doctor knows best, right?

Maybe not, according to new research from a University of Chicago Medical Center professor.

Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an assistant professor of medicine, found that a surprising number of physicians do not know if many medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Alexander and his fellow researchers, in an article published Friday in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, wrote that some physicians will prescribe medication they mistakenly believe to be FDA-approved.

“Off-label prescribing is common, but researchers have not always known why,” Alexander said in a statement. “Our research shows that...more

Monday health news round up

State hid MRSA outbreak at prisons (Belleville News-Democrat)

Health care rallies in the Loop (WLS)

It's back-to-school time, so watch out for swine flu. (NYTimes/WLS)

Robots take over hospital duties (AP)

More on Lake Michigan's diabetes-causing fish. (Trib)

Can the Internet substitute for a doctor? (Sun-Times)

Vegetarians vs. meat eaters. (Chicago Defender)

Local groups address breast cancer disparities. (Trib)

Illinois' pollution problem. (Trib)

At CPS, dessert is served. (Trib)

Study says vaccination could halt swine flu. (AP)

Pregnant, with cancer. (Trib)


Biden touts stimulus, when digital records fail and the public option

For better or worse, Vice President Joe Biden left Chicago yesterday having committed no trademark gaffes and deftly avoided discussing the imperiled public option plan, from which the Obama administration appears to be backing away.

Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined doctors for a roundtable discussion at Sinai Community Institute, and talked about the importance of electronic medical records.

Biden announced the release of nearly $1.2 billion to help health care providers establish electronic medical record systems that can be shared between different hospitals and clinics. Such records, the vice president said, make health care safe,...more