"I woke up this morning having some dizziness and throwing up," said Jason Hollon, Stroger Hospital patient.
Whether or not Stroger Hospital is accredited was not an issue for Hollon. Like most others in the Stroger emergency room, the 30-year-old taxi dispatcher has no health insurance and thought he'd be turned away at most private hospitals.
"Lot of 'em don't like taking people without insurance. They always say 'pay up front' so this was one of my only options," said Hollon.
During a surprise visit last month, an accreditation team determined Stroger officials had corrected the 16 remaining violations that threatened the hospital's eligibility to receive federal funding. County Board President Stroger praised the management team for fixing the problems during a period of deep budget cuts.
"The hospital was in a lot of turmoil, you know, when they cut that many people and there are a lot of things going on. But you can see the stability they were able to reach," said Pres. Stroger.
The problems cited 11 months ago were mostly procedural--dealing with lab tests, patient identifications and other non-treatment issues including hand-washing by nurses. The inspectors did not criticize the long waits at the hospital for treatment and prescriptions.
"So I been here a total, close to of 30 hours or so when it's all said and done," said Mark Kirkpatrick, Stroger Hospital patient.
Officials predict even longer waits if the Cook County Board makes more cuts in the health bureau's budget. Director Dr. Robert Simon used the word "cowards" to describe board members who refuse to raise taxes to support healthcare for the uninsured.
"The bottom line is if those people who are not willing to sacrifice themselves on the frontline of that board to give us money to run it, they are certainly not leaders," said Dr. Robert Simon, Cook Co. Bureau of Health.
Most county board members are still opposed to a sales tax increase to balance the budget, but behind-the-scenes negotiations continue.
Dr. Simon stands by his threat to quit if the board cuts the healthcare budget for the second year in a row.