Kadner: No one talks about money during mayor’s crisis
PHIL KADNER email@example.com | (708) 633-6787 August 22, 2012 6:40PM
Hazel Crest Mayor Robert Donaldson | File photo
Updated: September 24, 2012 7:46AM
A few minutes after handing me his business card at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Cook County medical clinic, Hazel Crest Mayor Robert Donaldson suffered what appeared to be a seizure.
Slumped in a chair, with spittle coming out of his mouth, the mayor’s body began shaking.
It might have been an interesting time to have a debate with Cook County politicians about the cost of health care.
Cook County owns the Oak Forest Health Center, which once was a hospital that was closed due to budget cuts.
It once had an emergency room, which also is now closed. Cook County officials would eagerly explain to critics it had never been a real emergency room so it didn’t matter when they shut it down.
The hospital and the ER were supposed to be treating the poor of Cook County, those without health insurance who were desperately in need of medical care.
Nobody ever accepted responsibility for the fact that millions of dollars were wasted and the poor went untreated or were delivered second-rate care.
If Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle had not already left the news conference Wednesday at the groundbreaking for the Oak Forest Health Center clinic, we might have discussed how preventative care rather than hospital care might have benefited the mayor.
Preventing people from getting sick is going to be the emphasis of the new county-owned clinic once it opens in January with new X-ray machines, mammography devices, labs and other stuff.
A real asset to the community, Preckwinkle called it.
But the truth is I wasn’t thinking about that, the cost of health care or Cook County’s budget problems as I watched Donaldson suffering.
I just ran out of the building shouting, “Medical emergency! We need a doctor here!”
There had been several doctors present a few minutes earlier, during the news conference.
“They’re all gone,” I was told by stragglers who lingered outside the entrance of E Building on the Oak Forest campus.
One woman in a white lab coat did run inside and rush to Donald’s aid. A Cook County spokeswoman later said that woman was Cathy DiGangi, a registered nurse, who deserves a great deal of credit for doing what doctors and nurses do every day — coming to the aid of someone who is seriously ill.
It was Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) who first shouted for help, attracting the attention of myself and others.
Only minutes before, Donaldson had assured me that Southland mayors would be using cable TV public-access channels in their communities to get out the word about the medical services available at the Oak Forest Health Center.
I had raised the question earlier at Preckwinkle’s news conference where she bragged about the new building and diagnostic services that would be offered there.
I wondered how uninsured south suburban residents would know about all the new medical services come January.
People like to talk about health care in theory. What we can afford and what we can’t. Whether it’s more important to have medical treatment or preventative care.
That’s all meaningless when you seem someone struggling to breathe.
I suppose some might claim it’s heartless to discuss a political issue in the context of Donaldson’s attack.
Sure it is. But someone is always in the middle of a medical emergency when people debate the cost of health care, the availability of trauma units and health insurance.
Normally, you just don’t see them. There are no reporters there to record the event.
By the time Oak Forest paramedics arrived, about 10 minutes after Donaldson suffered his attack, he was surrounded by medical professionals from the county’s health clinic.
He was conscious and answering questions.
He was taken to South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, where he is a member of the board of governance, and was listed in fair condition Wednesday evening.
Some people at the news conference speculated he had suffered a heatstroke. The groundbreaking ceremony had taken place outdoors.
All I really know is that when Donaldson was suffering, it seemed urgent to everyone nearby that he receive medical attention.
No matter how much prevention you do, people eventually are going to get really sick.
They’re going to need an ER and a hospital.
I am grateful Donaldson got the medical care he needed and that government cost-cutting didn’t play a role in saving his life.
That might not always be the case for the rest of us.
Good thing for us that during most debates about health care, we don’t have to watch someone we know fighting for their lives.