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Chicago Nurses Sound Alarm to Save Cook County Health and Hospital System

National Nurses United / NNOC Press Release, 5/14/14

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Propose Revenue Remedy Not Pension Cuts

National Nurses United, representing 1300 registered nurses throughout the Cook County Health and Hospital System and 6000 nurses in Chicago, call on Cook County President Toni Preckwrinkle to stop her destructive plan to cut pensions. The plan will exacerbate the county's fiscal crisis and ruin the county's safety net hospital system, nurses say.

Nurses call on County and State elected officials to address the county's funding crisis by passing HB 5929, a financial transaction tax on Illinois commodities trades that would increase revenue.

Nurses warn that the plan to cut pensions is shortsighted because:

  • The 150 nurses and other personnel that are eligible to retire will feel pressured to retire early to defend their pension benefits, adding to the 1000 vacancies that already exist.
  • Early retirement and reduced benefit packages will damage recruitment and retention of skilled medical personnel throughout CCHHS.
  • The existing nursing and other staffing shortages will grow, leading to dramatic and costly increases in the use of emergency staffing measures like overtime.
  • Pension and retiree benefit programs drive job creation through direct spending and investments in local businesses; a reduction in pensions will cause a retraction in that important contribution to the county's economy.
  • Cook County employees receive pension benefits in lieu of Social Security so any cuts to their benefits will not be mitigated by federal benefits.

“I chose to work at CCHHS because I believe that no one should fall through the cracks and go without quality healthcare," said Elizabeth Lalasz, RN Stroger Hospital. "This pension proposal will hurt County patients, because County won’t be able to recruit and retain experienced nurses and doctors. When patients need us and call, poor staffing levels may mean that it takes us longer to respond.”

“I’ve been a nurse at County for over 20 years, paying part of my salary into my pension. Many people don’t realize that County workers aren’t eligible for social security," said Martese Chism, RN Stroger Hospital. "If my pension gets cut, I have nothing else to protect me in retirement.”

Nurses argue that while the county pension system is currently much better funded than either the city pension or state pension plans, the proposed county pension cuts are much more radical and harsh than the state legislation and city proposal.

The Cook County Health and Hospital System is one of the few remaining public hospital systems in the United States and the second largest after New York City. The system sees more than 140,000 patients in the ER annually, trains hundreds of physicians from around the county, and maintains a Level 1 Trauma-Burn Center.

 

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