South Side hospitals among those getting $94 million to address inequities in health care

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Hospitals that serve some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods will be among the first to receive $94 million in grants from the state meant to help address inequities in health care, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office announced Thursday.

The money is part of a health care transformation program Pritzker signed into law earlier this year. Eight groups of hospitals, federally qualified health centers and other organizations will receive the first round of cash awards. Federally qualified health centers are clinics that receive federal funding to provide primary care in underserved areas.

One group on the South Side said it will work to improve access to health care, including by adding 90 primary care and obstetrics providers. In recent years, it’s become increasingly difficult to get obstetrics care on the South Side with fewer hospitals offering obstetrics units.

That group includes Advocate Trinity Hospital, Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center, St. Bernard Hospital, Chicago Family Health Center, The New Roseland Community Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital, South Shore Hospital and University of Chicago Medicine, among others.

Another group on the city’s West Side plans to use the money to increase access to culturally responsive health care and help health care providers and community organizations work together. That group plans to focus on patients on Medicaid and without health insurance who suffer from severe mental illness, substance use disorder, depression, adverse childhood experience, hypertension and diabetes.

The group includes Loretto Hospital, Sinai Chicago, Rush University Medical Center, Humboldt Park Health, Cook County Health, Lurie Children’s Hospital and Access Community Health Network, among others.

A third group, on the city’s North Side, said it plans to use the cash to make it easier for community members to see specialty physicians. For that effort, Swedish Hospital is partnering with five federally qualified health centers to hire specialists who will work in those health centers.

“There are simply not enough specialty providers in our community to serve and treat the Medicaid population,” the group said in its application for the grant. Swedish Hospital, for example, is the only provider of dermatology services in the area, meaning patients often face a six month wait to see a dermatologist, according to the group’s grant application.

“Each day our patients have to defer care from specialists thus increasing their risk for further complications and illness,” the group said in the application. “Increasingly many of these individuals resort to using the Emergency Department as their only resource for treatment.”

A second round of awards is expected to be announced in the fall, the governor’s office said. Illinois may invest up to $150 million a year in the program, with support from federal matching funds.

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