Medicaid funding saves Roseland Community Hospital … for now

RoselandphotoRoseland Community Hospital faced serious troubles with state budgets not passed by the State General Assembly and Governor Rauner sitting on allocated federal monies. A staple in the Roseland Community, Roseland Community Hospital is located in what was once considered one of the finer middle-class neighborhoods on the far south side of Chicago. Since the late 1960’s, the gradual change over from White families to Black families brought job opportunities from the steel mills and factories that graced the far South East Side.

Over the last four decades, the community has witnessed a downhill battle of problems from business closings, gang infestation, foreclosure, unemployment and a spike in crime that has made Roseland a less desirable place to live. Once the pride of its residents, Roseland Community Hospital has gone through various changes and scrutiny as past administrators have been criticized for mismanagement and not providing the highest quality of service to its patients. In the last two years, the hospital has undergone major administrative changes to improve the quality of service under the guidance of executive director Tim Egan and a new board of directors.

It is called the ‘New’ Roseland Community Hospital to re-identify with residents that it is a hospital and medical center that can provide reliable aid to patients without traveling outside of their community.

Unfortunately, the new facelift of the hospital is not enough to prevent it from the financial hiccups faced similar close calls. As of last week, the hospital was awarded their rightful Medicaid funding with the legal assistance from the Shriver Center and the Hospital Family Association. It has been a long battle, but the worn torn hospital was not going down without a fight. Now, payroll for over 200 hospital employees will be met this Friday along with vendor payments to keep the doors open at the medical facility. Many of the employees are members of the SEIU organization, the healthcare union that protects the interests of workers throughout Illinois.

With a new Republican governor that has not accepted an invitation to visit the hospital to take a tour nor to meet with community leaders many feel it’s shows disrespect for residents needing these services. Jaquie Algee, SEIU vice president and director of external relations, is also a long time resident of Roseland who has witnessed the various changes over the years.

You have a lot of people up until this day that have never recovered from those plants closing. In a former life, I ran the Human Resource department for U.S. Steel Works and I was responsible for hiring people. I also had to lay people off. I know a lot of people who came through that experience,” Algee said. “Some folks had worked at the mills for 15–30 years and this was all that they knew. If they could have gone to another factory or had alternate employment, it could have been an easier transition but it wasn’t there. As a result of this, the community started declining.”

Photo Credit: John Geahan
Photo Credit: John Geahan

Now that Medicaid funds were allocated to the hospital, the hospital won’t be forced to close its doors and lay off employees. With all that has transpired in the community, this would be detrimental and a serious blow to residents who rely a great deal on medical needs for children and elderly patients. The next nearest hospital is Christ Hospital about five miles away in OakLawn.

There’s a big difference in the 9th and 34th Wards, in terms of the kind of progress,” Algee said. “The work that Alderman Carrie Austin has done in comparison of what has been done in the 9th Ward. It almost looks like a war-zone. SEIU Health- care has over 2,000 members that live in the 14th District. This covers the 9th, 21st and 34th Wards—all of them in the same district.”

On a recent bus tour of the Roseland community, Congresswoman Robin Kelly rode along with hospital administrators, members of SEIU, community leaders and invited members of the press to dis- cuss how state budget cuts have taken its toll on residents. Other public officials in attendance included Commissioner Deborah Sims, and representatives from both State Senator Emil Jones III and Alderman Carrie Austin offices. Each level of government has made a public commitment to communicate the importance of keeping the 84-year old hospital’s doors open.

Cook County Board Commissioner Deborah Sims said, “We did a resolution at our last board meet- ing calling on Governor Rauner to give Roseland Community Hospital the money to make those Medicaid payments, because you can’t hold the hospital and the community hostage. The money should be given to the hospital, if you don’t give them the money – the doors will close. I’m quite sure the Governor doesn’t want this on his hands.”

State budget cuts are hitting almost every social service and community program hard. And for the residents of Roseland—it’s real, and it’s serious. From childcare cuts affecting Community Assistance Programs, job training and youth services provided by Phalanx Family Services to keeping the peace among Roseland’s youth with Kids Off the Block and the area Cease Fire programs—state funding have been put on hold. It is a domino effect that has business, community, faith and political leaders stretched and running out of options.

Next Wednesday, August 19th, SEIU members and supporters will be protesting Governor Rauner’s push to cease funding on social service programs at the State Fair on Governor’s Day.

You’re going to see residents from throughout the state in attendance and a rainbow of participants,” Algee said. “These cuts affect everyone, not just Chicago residents.”

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