CHICAGO, IL – October 28, 2018 – Sen. Richard (Dick) Durbin
met with CEO George N. Miller, Jr., last week to hear the plethora of
concerns safety-net hospitals like The Loretto Hospital face in today’s
health care landscape.
“We were very pleased and honored to have Sen. Durbin at The Loretto
Hospital—someone who is an advocate for access to quality health
care for everyone. This was a great opportunity for us because we were
able to share our vision, our mission, and many of the challenges safety-net
hospitals like ours encounter on a daily basis,” George N. Miller,
Jr. said, president and CEO of The Loretto Hospital.
Surrounded by hospital leadership, board members, along with state Sen.
Kimberly Lightford, who represents the 4th district which includes the
Austin community, and state Rep. Camille Y. Lilly (78th), the roundtable-like
discussion covered an array of topics. At the top of the agenda were the
overall challenges associated with slow payments from Managed Care Organizations
(MCOs), low Medicaid reimbursement rates, health care disparities, and
The Loretto Hospital’s aim to improve population health outcomes
on the Greater West Side of Chicago.
Depending on where you live in Cook County, or your census tract, access
to quality health care may vary, including the average life expectancy,
which may vary by as much as 33 years, according to a City Lab news report,
a medium dedicated to analyzing pressing issues in the world’s metropolitan
areas and neighborhoods. According to the article, low-income, minority
communities like Austin seem to be hit much harder.
The Loretto Hospital, which is located right off the I-290 expressway,
is the only hospital in Austin serving a population of 97,463 residents.
That covers about five zip codes, which includes Galewood, The Island,
North and South Austin. Overall, the community is comprised of 83 percent
African American, 11.4 percent Hispanic, 4.5 percent White, and about
five percent Asian. According to the Chicago Health Atlas, the community
has a higher prevalence of deaths from diseases such cancers, high blood
pressure, heart disease, renal failure, HIV and diabetes than other Chicago-area
communities. For instance, from 2012 – 2016, Austin had far more
residents die from diabetes
complications than all of Chicago (91.8 percent compared to 63.4 percent).
The community is also plagued with more opioid-related deaths than other
neighboring communities. In 2017, 64.6 percent of opioid-related deaths
occurred in the Austin community. With regard to maternal child health,
the Chicago Health Atlas also reports higher infant mortality rates for
the Austin community. The infant mortality rate is 10.5 percent per 1000
births in the communities served by Loretto. In Chicago communities overall,
it is only 7.9 percent.
“If you drive just a few miles East on I-290, the average life expectancy
is 88 years. In the Austin community, the average life expectancy is 68.2
years. This is a huge health disparity and it’s wrong. But we believe
health care disparities can be overcome, and The Loretto Hospital is determined
to lead the charge,” Miller said.
During their discussion, Miller shared how The Loretto Hospital is gearing
up to address these health disparities, but that it would require the
full and unbiased support from the State and health care policy decision
makers. With this in mind, he said the hospital has shifted its strategic
direction with a focus on growth, development and transformation.
“Our focus is to enhance our overall quality, and to expand our
services to improve access to care for the patients we serve, while creating
a more stable economic structure without having to rely so much on the
State for money,” Miller said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Durbin received a full tour of the facility
and had a chance to meet The Loretto Hospital team members. He later shared
on social media: “Visited Loretto Hospital - Chicago, IL yesterday
to hear about the most pressing health topics affecting the hospital and
how we can work together to better serve the community.”