Officials fear threatened state Medicaid cuts will make it difficult for Norwegian American Hospital in the Humboldt Park community to keep operating.
In order to balance the state's budget, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says cuts will be needed. Where those cuts occur is the question. Friday, some pressed to preserve Medicaid funding for the state's low-income families.
For over 100 years Norwegian American Hospital has taken in the neighborhood's diverse residents. Staffers are seeing even more patients without the ability to pay. They fear what would happen to patients if the hospital loses state Medicaid funds.
"If they were to cut back on some hospitals it wouldn't affect them too much, but if they cut back on us it would cut our budget in half and force us to close our doors," said Norwegian American Hospital's Joe Mejia.
Friday, local healthcare workers stood with some politicians to protest proposed state Medicaid cuts.
"At this time when our state and our nation are focusing on better primary care to achieve better outcomes, it makes no sense to jeopardize the safety net system," said Erie Family Health Center's Iliana Mora.
"Cutting dollars and eliminating programs and services doesn't automatically make people better," said Juan Luis Rodrigez of the Greater Humboldt Park Community of Wellness. "People will not stop getting sick."
"Some of them don't care about minority communities, and we know that firsthand they will cut whatever it takes just to make sure their programs are taken care of," said Illinois Representative Toni Berrios, 39th District. "We have to make sure our community is taken care of too."
Estella Fino came in to Norwegian hospital on Friday with her father who has been ill. She also has three children with disabilities who depend on care provided through Medicaid.
Fino is troubled by talk of fewer services here and other facilities.
"That's bad. It's not just bad for me, but bad for the community. It's scary," Fino said.
Legislators go back to Springfield next Tuesday. They need a budget by May 31.
In the coming weeks we can expect the cries to prevent funding cuts will get louder.