From Hero to Zero: Cook County Health Workers

About 100 Cook County Health workers and their supporters rallied outside Stroger Hospital on Friday, accusing the county of “turning their backs” on them by filling vacant positions with private contract workers who are often not up to the job.

“Morale has never been lower. … We are understaffed and overworked,” said Veronica Williams, a surgical technologist at Stroger Hospital, standing in front of her workplace Friday.

He said contract workers are “Band-Aids on a worsening problem. Many agency staff provided to hospitals are inexperienced and lack the knowledge and tools to deliver quality care.”

Cook County Health Officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

SEIU Local 73, a union that represents the county's roughly 2,100 health system workers, says the county has spent about $500 million on contract workers since 2018 — to cover staff shortages, a national problem.

“Agencies-heavy work degrades the quality of county patient care and deprives stable union jobs,” said Dian Palmer, union president.

Temporary contract workers currently fill about 600 county health care jobs, Palmer said.

“They don't know the hospital. They don't know the policies and procedures. They don't even know the way out and our members have to help them do their job,” Palmer said.

Instead, Palmer said, the county should fill the position with unions and offer them a retention bonus. So far, said Palmer, the county has come to the table with “regressive proposals.”

“The district offers crumbs of workers,” he said. “The county calls you a hero, but treats you like a zero.”