Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=127077
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 3:56:14 PM CST
Health care students and community activists protested at the University of Illinois Hospital on Thursday in an effort to keep a Pilsen-based community clinic open for business.
The Center for Women and Families at Pilsen, which serves more than 6,500 patients annually, is slated to be closed by the University of Illinois in June due to budget strains. The clinic, located at 1858 W. 18th St., has lost $1 million since it opened five years ago, according to University of Illinois-Chicago spokeswoman Jeanne Galatzer-Levy.
“The clinic has lost money every year it’s been in operation,” Galatzer-Levy said. “It’s just a way to cut overhead.” She said the hospital provides the same services at an outpatient care center at 1801 W. Taylor St., which is 12 blocks away from the Pilsen clinic.
But others feel that financing the clinic’s operation, which costs $200,000 annually, is a minor issue and closing the clinic jeopardizes the university’s urban mission of community outreach to vulnerable people.
“We’re talking about $200,000 a year, which for 6,000 patients, it’s a drop in the bucket,” UIC medical student and clinic staff member Caroline Novak said. “I mean, it’s half of the salary of the CEO of the hospital administration.”
Balanced budgets and revenue calculations don’t mean much to the patients who depend on the care provided by the clinic.
“Right now I’m not working and I don’t have any insurance,” said clinic patient Elia Arenas, who has frequented the clinic for more than a year. “I went there and they only charged me $15.”
“Where do you go and get charged just $15? Nowhere,” she added.
Like Arenas, many other rally attendees described the clinic as a critical resource for the predominantly Latino neighborhood.
“I can’t believe they’re doing this,” rally participant Delia Saucedo said. “This is the place they go for minimum care and say, ‘Look, there’s something wrong with me.’”
Saucedo, along with others, said the plans for the clinic’s closure are racially motivated.
“They’ve done it before,” she said. “Now that they see that area, that land is getting higher, of course they’re going to take it away. Why do you let these Mexicans keep it, you know?”
The university denied any sinister reasons for closing the clinic and reiterated that the network of care provided by UIC will not be interrupted.
“It’s just silly,” Galatzer-Levy said responding to allegations of racism. “We provide the same quality of care here as we do in the Pilsen neighborhood.”
To conclude the rally, organizers presented petitions with the signatures of more than 1,000 supporters of The Center for Women and Families to hospital representatives.
“I’m happy to see this kind of passion,” hospital administrator Dr. Tim McDonald said. “I’d really like to facilitate more discussion and communication about this.”
An evening solidarity vigil in support of keeping the clinic open will take place Thursday evening at the UIC Center for Women and Families in Pilsen.