The Battle Against Budget Cuts

A St. Bernard Hospital employee signs the petition to save Illinois’ safety-net hospitals.

A St. Bernard Hospital employee signs the petition to save Illinois’ safety-net hospitals.

Last week, St. Bernard Hospital collected over 500 signatures from employees, patients and visitors urging Gov. Rauner and state lawmakers to protect patients and save safety-net hospitals. If the governor’s proposed Medicaid cuts are implemented, St. Bernard and other safety-net hospitals could lose many of their key services. This would leave patients with few options for health care and place enormous stress on our already overburdened Cook County Health System.

The fact is that safety-net hospitals like St. Bernard, which has provided health care for South Side communities for 110 years, and whose patients primarily rely on Medicaid, simply cannot sustain continued, drastic reductions in funding. These cuts put the health and wellbeing of millions of Illinois citizens at risk. Not only would access to primary care be reduced, these cuts could also lead to the elimination of specialty services — chronic disease education and treatment, dental care, mental health and addiction treatment, as well as access to emergency care — that our communities depend on.

As the designated state drop-off location for mental health patients from Lake Michigan to Western Ave. and from 47th Street to 87th Street, St. Bernard’s service area includes nearly 700,000 residents. The hospital has the distinction of receiving the most EMS (ambulance) runs in the city of Chicago (2014). Additional cuts to funding will severely impact our ability to receive and treat these patients. There will be little or no alternatives for them to receive care they desperately need.

With the state’s fiscal situation, tough decisions have to be made. But what greater responsibility do our elected officials have than to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens have access to health care? $1.5 billion in cuts means lost health services in our communities. $1.5 billion in cuts would eliminate thousands of jobs and economic development. Convincing lawmakers to prevent these cuts is vital to the families who depend on safety-net hospitals.

To help fight this issue, please visit www.SaveSafetyNet.org. The website allows you to send an automated letter to your state legislators asking them to stop cuts to Medicaid. Your voice matters; use it.

Charles Holland
President and CEO
St. Bernard Hospital