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Roseland Community Hospital Prepares to Scale Back Due to Financial Woes

By Wendell Hutson | April 24, 2013 6:16am

ROSELAND — Dian Powell is taking the money problems facing the 162-bed Roseland Community Hospital personally.

If anyone knows what the hospital means to the predominately black Roseland community, it's Powell.

A Roseland resident, Powell was hired in December 2011 as the president and chief executive officer of RCH.

"I have lived in Roseland for 36 years, and Roseland Community Hospital has been a staple in the community a lot longer than that," said Powell, a 68-year-old widow. "This hospital serves some of the poorest people in the city, and the residents depend on the hospital for their medical needs."

Powell said the hospital owes $8 million to vendors.

"If we cannot pay them soon we will have to scale back services," Powell said. "That means the 28,000 patients that utilize our emergency room every year would have to be cut back."

Powell said the hospital might have to eliminate its 24-hour gynecologist department and lay off up to 60 of its 560 employees, who mostly live in the community.

Cuts also could include the Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit, a 28-bed, inpatient facility that opened in January 2012 and provides mental health care to children ages 10-17.

In 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn was at RCH to sign legislation to create the Roseland Medical District, which is the only medical district on the South Side and the fourth in the state. The three other medical districts are located in Springfield, East St. Louis and on the West Side.

According to Sharon Thurman, a spokeswoman for RCH, its annual budget is $70 million but it provides $25 million each year in free healthcare.

"Forty percent of the people who go through [the Emergency Room] are uninsured," Powell said. "For every $1 we bill a patient for we collect 18 cents. And at that rate, we cannot continue to function as a full-service hospital."

The closest hospital in Chicago to RCH is Advocate Trinity Hospital, which is 5.6 miles away.

"That's far when you do not have a car," said Shanell Boyer, 28, who has lived in Roseland for three years. "If this hospital should close, a lot more people would call 911 for an ambulance ride to another hospital."

Boyer was at the hospital Tuesday with her friend Jamaine Wells, 27, who was waiting in the ER to see a doctor for a "bad" headache.

"I was born at Roseland Hospital and have been coming here all my life," said Wells, a Roseland resident and owner of Wells Janitorial Services Inc., also in Roseland. "For me, I have options because I drive and could go to the suburbs for service. But for a lot of other people like these single mothers with small children, they don't have too many choices when it comes to healthcare around here."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he is hosting a "Roseland Hospital Day" at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters at 9 a.m. Saturday "to bring awareness to their struggles."

Powell described the Roseland community as a ''health desert'' and added that a trauma center on the South Side is sorely needed.

"The communities with the most trauma do not have trauma centers. I never understood that," Powell said. "This hospital is the anchor of the community. If we should close the community would lose $147 million annually. That's why we need to remain open and not be forced to scale back services vitally needed in the community."