Cook County slashes healthcare budget

On Feb. 23, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a budget that will layoff 1,700 workers, including nurses and technicians. The biggest cut will be in the Bureau of Health where 1,189 people will lose their jobs.

The budget includes cuts to all 3 county hospitals and to the 26 county health clinics. Thirteen of these 26 health

clinics, which serve some of the poorest workers in the county, will be closed down.

Cook County nurses are fighting back with a barrage of militant protests.

The protests have pointed out that these cuts will have devastating effects on the patients and people who can’t afford health care or health insurance. The cuts, if not overturned by the action of the people, ultimately will result in the suffering of tens of thousands of people who are not able to get treatment for their ailments.

The remaining nurses that have jobs will not be able to provide the level of quality care that they have in the past. With fewer nurses overall, they will be overwhelmed by an increased workload. They won’t be able to spend the time required to treat properly each patient. 

Wave of protest

On Jan. 29, there was a mass rally of thousands of nurses and their supporters at Chicago’s federal plaza. Hundreds of workers then packed a public hearing on the Cook County budget.

After the budget passed, Cook County nurses staged a March 1 “die-in” outside of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s office. The nurses held paper headstones in the air, making the county commissioners step over them in order to get to the boardroom.  The significance of this was to demonstrate how their patients would die from disease without preventive care or early detection. The nurses stated that the budget cuts are a matter of life and death.

Then, on March 4, a group of Chicago Cook County healthcare workers demonstrated outside Stroger’s church while he attended services. The protesters shouted, “What do we want? Healthcare! When do we want it? Now!” 

The United States is the richest country in the world, yet 47 million people lack health insurance. Without free clinics or county hospitals to serve them, the people who can’t afford healthcare coverage have no place to go. 

Instead of closing down healthcare clinics, more should be built that are accessible to all.

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