Gang Members: We Deserve to Be Saved, Keep Hospital Open

Community group says closing the hospital would put nearly 50,000 people at risk.

Gang members are among those flocking to save a South Side Chicago hospital that claims it could be forced to close for lack of funds.

Rev. Phillip Cusic, an employee at Roseland Community Hospital, said he met with nearly 20 members of the Black Disciples Monday. The group reached out to Cusic saying they want to help save the hospital because they deserve a chance to be saved and they want their community to be saved.

"It's bad enough we're out here harming each other," said Don Dirk Acklin, co-founder of the Black Disciples. "But then for the hospital to close that can help people that is innocent and being harmed-- that's genocide."

Members of the Black Disciples vowed to join peace protests and publicly make their voices heard.

"We use the word gang and we use it in a derogatory fashion," said Black Disciples member Art Stringer. "We're founded on truth and the ability to uplift our community, but if we ain't got the funding to do it then we go to other means to do that, but the objective is still the same."

Cusic said he can't give an exact number of how many alleged gang members the hospital sees but said it serves "quite a few."

"They deserve a right to live," Cusic said.

Roseland Community Hospital received notice this week that it must begin moving patients within three days because of its increasing debt, officials said. The hospital reported a $2 million deficit at the end of the 2011 fiscal year.

Hospital officials said they are devastated by the moving notice and said they were expecting the state to repay them what they claim they are owed.

“I’ve seen this hospital do a lot for this community,” hospital employee Paulette Perry said. “I love my job.”

Community members, workers and union leaders protested the closure last week and rallied again Monday, saying Roseland is the only hospital within an eight-mile radius and is a lifeline to South Side residents.

“If there’s nothing here at all, period, then where are they going to go? Just lie in the street and die?" one protester said.

The Roseland Coalition, a community group, said closing the hospital would put nearly 50,000 people at risk and 600 employees could lose their jobs.

The hospital let go 60 workers two weeks ago due to the lack of funding and activists are calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to use emergency funds to save the center.

The hospital said they will stop accepting patients Wednesday and said Monday they are sending Quinn a bill once more stating they are owed $6 million from the last four years.

"It's election season," Bisop Tavis Grant of Rainbow Push said. "Do the right thing."

The governor's office said the State of Illinois does not owe Roseland the $6 million the hospital alleges and that the state has advanced all payments to Roseland for this fiscal year.

"The hospital and its board of directors have serious management issues that need to be addressed," Quinn's office said in a statement. "Roseland Hospital is in deep debt and they have mismanaged their resources into the situation they are in today."

The governor said he is concerned about Roseland's long-term viability and that top healthcare advisers from his office have met with them repeatedly over the past six weeks, including yesterday.

"We committed to work with the hospital and help them identify potential partners and available resources within the law to develop a plan for long-term sustainability," his office said in a statement. "Those discussions are ongoing. The hospital has never provided a plan or any information to move forward."

The coalition said recent closures of other area hospitals has led to a 40 percent increase in emergency room patients and that the hospital spends millions in charity care to help the uninsured.

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