To the editors:
The April 7th cover story of the Reader featured an in-depth interview with Terrence Hansen, Chief Administrator at Cook County Hospital. The tenor of the piece was that much of the public criticism of the hospital was unjustified. Mr. Hansen was quoted as saying, "Nobody ever gives us names, nobody ever gives us particulars, and we never get to check (allegations) out. . . . All you have to do is come and look at what the board's done in the last ten years, nine years, eight years, seven years. . . . Cut the crap fellas, start waking up and looking at what's going on around the hospital!" Fair enough, let's look at the record, at what's happened during Mr. Hansen's watch.
Since Mr. Hansen took over as chief executive, Cook County Hospital has been without a heart surgery program, not an insignificant problem for a patient population with one of the highest incidences of heart diseases, heart valve infections and chest trauma in the Midwest. (We have already had an abortive cooperative cardiac surgery venture with one hospital and are in the middle of a second expensive cooperative agreement.) The hospital no longer has any inpatient psychiatric services and virtually no liaison with any outpatient programs. Despite having to admit one out of every eight AIDS patients in the city of Chicago, the hospital has devoted virtually no administrative resources to the AIDS problem (the medical and nursing staffs have been sharing most of the responsibility). The most unbelievable fact is that the hospital has no alcohol or drug treatment programs, inpatient or outpatient, despite tens of thousands of these patients who present yearly to the hospital and clinics. Not only are there no programs, referral to outpatient centers is virtually impossible. The hospital actually lost a Federal grant of $60,000 because there was no one to administer it. All of this is in addition to several hundred beds closing.
The middle management structure of the hospital is in complete disarray. As of this writing, the hospital has been decimated in several key areas. There is currently no head of Nursing Services, no head of Social Services, no Director of Cardiology and no Director of Anesthesia. The impact on patient care is obvious.
So much for what the hospital does not have. Let's look at what the hospital has had since Mr. Hansen assumed command. There has been a power failure, and several areas of the hospital have flooded during rainstorms. There have been acrimonious disputes with a company hired to clean the hospital and with the company hired to install computer services. There was a recent Federal and State investigation into hospital policies and procedures. There have been several lawsuits between physicians and the administration of the hospital on any number of matters. The hospital was hours away from a nursing strike, the net result of which was numerous resignations and an aftermath of bitterness. Most critical units and wards of the hospital are still understaffed. Waiting times for certain clinic appointments and X-ray tests grow progressively longer. Ironically, the public relations debacle that Mr. Hansen cites occurred after two public relations directors left the hospital and his office took control of that function.
While all of these problems are obvious to anyone who makes even a cursory visit to the hospital and asks the right questions, the deepest problem is just below the surface. There are several thousand workers in many different positions at the County Hospital. Most, if not all, are proud of the services they provide and the functions they perform. I doubt if more than a handful are proud of the way the hospital is currently operating for the benefit of patients. This is the record Mr. Hansen would have us look at.
Medical Intensive Care
Cook County Hospital