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Healthcare Advocates Launch Viral Campaign To Fight County Cuts

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Why are public hospitals in Cook County bleeding cash? Some critics think they have the answer.

 They say while Cook County Health and Hospitals System is cutting staff and services, some county commissioners say the agency is spending millions in contracts for consultants. 

 In one Youtube video, patients in Oak Forest Hospital beg the county to save the facility.

 "We have nowhere else to go," one patient says.

 He's been in Oak Forest Hospital for many years, unable to breathe on his own. He and others said they wanted the whole county to see their stories. 

 They're hoping commissioners will remember them during the budget crisis.  The people behind the videos say Cook County Health and Hospitals System is failing to heal a bleeding budget right now -- cutting nurses and services, while paying millions in contracts to consultants.

 "The budget needs to be cut from the top. Not the bottom. We don't make that much money,"  Tya Robinson-May, a county health worker, told CBS 2's Pamela Jones

 She says she fears losing her job for advocating in support of the patients.  But, she says, the issue is too important to remain silent.  Another supporter agrees.

"It's even more staggering when you come to find out at the end of the fiscal year, they're crying broke.  Well what did you do with the money? We need accountability.  We need transparency," activist Rodney Ruff said.

They point to contracts like the one just extended with the Sibery Group out of Oak Brook. It was approved in December.

"One, two three, four increases on that one contract. So, $400,000 contract is now $2.1 million," said Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele as he reviewed documentation on the contract.

Another problem? He says one employee for Sibery Group also just got hired in a management position with the health system.  Steele says it smacks of conflict of interest. 

On Friday, Steele plans to bring the issues to the county with the hope of improving the way the health system does business.

"You've talked to us to the point that we need to do better scrutiny when we're paying bills and we're doing extensions of contracts," Steele said.

A spokesperson for the health system said the issue involving Sibery is not double-dipping for the employee who also works for the county now. 

Typically, the spokesperson says, one check is issued to each consulting company and not to individuals.

The health system added that many of its consultants are paid based on how much revenue they raise.

Commissioner Steele says he's pushing for a city ordinance that would stop consultants from getting hired by the county individually while their company is contracted to perform county services.

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