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Uptown Hospitals Threatened By State Budget Stalemate

By Mina Bloom | June 25, 2015 2:01pm
 State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) held a news conference Thursday in Uptown to fight Gov. Rauner's proposed budget cuts.
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) held a news conference Thursday in Uptown to fight Gov. Rauner's proposed budget cuts.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

UPTOWN — Folks who rely on Uptown's two major hospitals, Weiss Hospital and Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, have reason to be worried right now, according to hospital officials.

If Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts are approved next week, hospitals and healthcare systems across the state could see a $700 million cut, according to State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), who held a news conference Thursday morning to fight the cuts facing the state as a whole.

Harris represents Chicago's 13th district, which includes Uptown, North Center, Bowmanville, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, Andersonville and West Ridge. 

Patrick Moallemian, CEO of Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, 4840 N. Marine Dr., said the cuts to healthcare would have a "devastating" impact on the community. In addition to not being able to provide care to those who need it the most, hospital employees' jobs are at stake.

"We happen to be, along with Weiss, two of the largest employers in Uptown," he said at the press conference, held at Christopher House, 4701 N. Winthrop Ave.

"I cannot emphasize it enough. We are not just speaking from a sheer state of panic, but rather from a deep respect for the communities from which we serve very needy individuals. Our very deserving communities will go without," Moallemian said.

David Miller, a representative from Weiss Hospital, 4646 N. Marine Dr., agreed, saying "Weiss Hospital is not just a hospital. It's a pillar in the community." 

"When we skip payments for those necessary primary services, folks will end up in the emergency ward. The best measure is preventative measures," Miller said.

Rauner has said budget cuts are necessary as the state is laboring under a $111 billion pension shortfall and a $6.6 billion deficit. The governor has said he would be open to a tax increase to soften cuts but that the Legislature would need to couple that with pro-business changes, such as changing workmans compensation and union regulations.

Healthcare isn't the only service on the chopping block. Rauner is proposing cuts to numerous services, including childcare, after-school programming and human services.

The 46th ward, which includes Uptown, Buena Park, Sheridan Park and part of Lakeview, has the most units of affordable housing of any ward in the city. Uptown, in particular, is home to a number of social services agencies and homeless shelters. 

Statewide advocacy group Illinois Action for Children has an office at 4753 N. Broadway, around the corner from Christopher House. Sessy Hyman, vice president of policy and strategic partnerships, said at the news conference that the impact of Rauner's cuts goes "so far beyond" one conversation.

"We are faced with the decision of laying off our staff July 1," she said referring to when the budget must be approved. 

Cuts to childcare and afterschool programming could lead to more young people on the streets, which might put them in harm's way, Harris said.

"It's so important for families to know that between the time school lets out and the time they get home from work that their kids are at the boys and girls club or at Alternatives or some other positive place, and that they're safe," Harris said.

There have been six shooting deaths in Uptown this year, according to data collected by DNAinfo Chicago. That is up from last year, which saw five, and the year before, when there were was only one shooting death in the North Side neighborhood.

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