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Debate Rages On Oak Forest Hospital Future

Health care worker.  (CBS)

Health care worker. (CBS)

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OAK LAWN (WBBM) — The Illinois Health Facilities Board heard from both sides today during a hearing on Cook County’s controversial decision to turn Oak Forest Hospital from an inpatient to an outpatient facility and do away with the emergency room.

There was a public hearing at the Oak Lawn Village Hall.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser Reports

All but one person who signed up to speak was opposed to the plan.

Some begged that the hospital remain open.

They said it’s been around for 100 years and has always been designed to serve the poor.

The alternative, for many, would be Stroger Hospital, an hours-long commute using public transportation from the south suburbs.

And, they argued, seeing a doctor at Stroger can take a whole day.

One man said he waited nine months to get an appointment with a dermatologist at Stroger Hospital.

County Health and Hospital System CEO William Foley said the county provides a half billion dollars in uncompensated care.

Oak Forest, he says, costs $100 million a year to run.

He said the switch to an outpatient facility will save $25 million.

“We believe that it is the best and wisest use of the resources that we have,” Foley said.

And he said he expects Oak Forest would treat four times more patients as an outpatient facility

On an average day, there are only 50 to 60 patients.

Employees say that’s because the county has cut so many services the hospital used to provide.