Please allow me to clarify several points made in your "Clinical Depression" article of August 24.
First, you reported that the Chicago Department of Public Health's move away from public medicine and toward public health represents a "new vision" that sprang up when Dr. John Wilhelm was appointed health commissioner in December. Actually, the department has been following that pattern fairly consistently since about 1991 (which nearly coincides with the Cook County Bureau of Health Services' major expansion of public-medicine clinics in the city). During the 1990s, a number of city clinic operations were assumed and by many measures improved by hospitals and other providers. Those clinics are still serving Chicagoans in a diverse mix of neighborhoods that includes Lakeview, Austin, North Park Village, Near South Side, Near West Side, Oakland, and more. For us to continue that pattern in South Lawndale and other neighborhoods should not be the surprise that some seem to view it as.
Second, it is worth mentioning that a decade ago, when the department moved the South Lawndale clinic from a dilapidated old building at 31st and California to its current storefront site, there was opposition from some of the same activists who insisted that the move would result in less services for women and children. After we made the move, the waiting time for a pregnant woman to see a doctor was reduced from a maddeningly long six months to two months. Today, with Saint Anthony's certified nurse midwives providing obstetrical care at the clinic, the wait for a pregnant woman is just ten days. It is our expectation that the new clinic will maintain and even improve upon current levels of service.
Third, you reported that for many Little Village residents "the new location will be harder to get to," but you failed to report that for an equivalent number of people (like the thousands of people living near Cermak and California) the new clinic will be easier to get to. In fact, the new clinic location at Cullerton and California is more accessible because it is adjacent to a CTA Blue Line stop, while the old storefront clinic is only served by buses.
Finally, we welcome the continued input of health-care advocates in South Lawndale and other neighborhoods. Their ideas, their enthusiasm, and their knowledge of local situations can, when employed in a constructive manner, be of great value to the communities they serve. We count on them as partners in helping us ensure that Chicago's health-care providers are serving all people, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.
Director of Public Information
Chicago Department of Public Health
Linda Lutton replies:
Nearly everyone I talked to for background on this story--which included nurses and other health-care workers as well as public and private clinic administrators--had the same impression: that Dr. Wilhelm's appointment as health commissioner has brought a much more notable push by the city to get out of the business of providing direct health-care services. Several did mention that Wilhelm's predecessor, Sister Sheila Lyne, talked about closing the clinics when she was first appointed in 1991, but they felt that over time she pulled away from the idea.