Maternal and Child Health

National Seminar Participants Join Doctors and Allies to Save Inpatient Pediatric Care at Chicago Hospital


National Seminar Participants Join Doctors and Allies to Save Inpatient Pediatric Care at Chicago Hospital
Stroger Hospital's pediatric physicians, residents and nursing staff advocated for their patients by speaking out against closure.

United Methodist Women attending National Seminar in Chicago learned about the global maternal and child health crisis during a plenary on Thursday night. Dr. Richard David addressed our plenary about the contributing factors that lead to higher incidences of premature birth, health and development issues as well as maternal and fetal deaths. Dr. David cited studies that identify societal impacts of poverty and stress - including the effects of racism and sexism - on women as root causes of poor outcomes for mothers and babies.

After explaining this phenomenon, Dr. David told us that plans were underway to close the pediatric inpatient unit at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, a hosptial that serves a low-income community of color, and therefore the most vulnerable of patients. A vote on the closure was scheduled for the following day. In a matter of minutes, a small group had mobilized and planned to attend that board meeting to make the case for justice over dollars.

The small group grew on the way to the hospital. Later that day we received an e-mail from Dr. David:

"When I spotted the cluster of women in front of the administration building, my heart soared. Thanks to you all for pouring some positive energy into a fight that can be exhausting at times ...
All the best,

The press release urging the hospital board to remain open follows:

Pediatric Advocates: Safeguarding critical care for poor infants and children at Stroger Hospital
Press contact: Dr. Richard 'Dick' David, 773-793-8449,
Press availability/testimony: Cook County Hospital Board meeting
9AM, Friday, July 31, 1900 W. Polk St., 2nd Floor Conference Room, Chicago

Docs, Caregivers to County Health Board: Don't Gut Inpatient Care for Poor Kids

Management move to close inpatient pediatric care would imperil the region's tiniest and most vulnerable patients, say physicians and their allies.

CHICAGO – Pediatric physicians, parents and their allies will push back against administrators' plans to eliminate inpatient pediatric care at Stroger Hospital at this Friday's Cook County Health and Hospital System's board meeting, scheduled for 9AM, July 31 , at 1900 W. Polk Street, in the facility's second floor conference room.

The Cook County Health and Hospitals System announced it was considering closing Stroger's inpatient pediatric unit in a June 4 memo, according to Crain's Chicago Business, which also reported that management is considering 'consolidating' Stroger's pediatric residency training program into another program and pushing pediatric care to outpatient sites only.

That move would spell disaster for some of the area's sickest children who rely on the hospital as a care provider of last resort. It would also eliminate one of the country's first pediatric residency programs, one that has trained some of the nation's premier pediatricians, say Stroger physicians, caregivers and their allies.

At a meeting of Stroger pediatricians and pediatric residents this week, a number of cases were described in which pediatric patients with complex and costly diagnoses such as leukemia were refused ongoing treatment at other area pediatric facilities because of the low reimbursement rates for ongoing care provided by the All Kids Medicaid insurance program.

Management has systematically sought to shunt pediatric patients to other facilities and understaffed specialty nursing personnel, allowing much of Stroger's pediatric patient base to be siphoned off by other area hospitals, say advocates. That has threatened the department's very survival. Should the system close inpatient pediatric services, these overwhelmingly poor and non-white children would simply have nowhere else to go, say advocates.

Stroger's pediatric care includes its NICU -- the newborn intensive care unit -- one of the region's most respected Level III units, the highest rating this type of pediatric unit can receive in Illinois. The NICU's tiny patients are, unlike many in the hospital, well insured, most being covered by Medicaid at a substantial reimbursement rate. Thus that unit provides a financial lifeline for the larger system that should be expanded rather than shuttered, argue doctors and their supporters.

When CCHHS CEO Dr. Jay Shannon was serving as Chief of Clinical Integration for the system two years ago, he moved to slash the number of patients on the newborn unit by almost half, claiming a nursing shortage for the NICU. Shannon told doctors to refuse to accept babies from other hospitals once his new bed limit was reached. About half of Stroger's NICU patients are transported from other hospitals, and physicians argued that if they refused transports, referring hospitals would stop calling, since private hospitals are eager to capture the revenues these tiny patients provide. Staff protested vigorously and eventually found ways to accommodate all NICU transfers while additional nurses were being hired and trained. But now, the NICU finds itself once again threatened with closure, since Shannon's restructuring plans would eliminate all inpatient pediatric services.


Doctors Fight to Save Stroger Hospital Pediatric Unit: Read on

Posted or updated: 8/1/2015 11:00:00 PM

National Seminar Flickr album includes video and photos of members in impromptu action

Press photos of hospital staff, United Methodist Women and other advocates

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