Peoria Journal Star
July 14, 2002
Haitian Hearts loses funding -- St. Francis slashes support
PEORIA - OSF Saint Francis Medical Center has cut most of its financial support for the Haitian Hearts program.
The hospital has been providing $257,000 yearly in nursing and other support for the sick children from Haiti, Dr. John Carroll, who founded the program seven years ago, said Saturday.
But at a meeting Friday night, the Haitian Hearts committee learned that support will be cut and the hospital now will offer only a 55 percent discount off its regular charges to care for the children, Carroll said.
''This will mean the deaths of Haitian children,'' Carroll said. ''I walked out the door'' at the meeting, where some others in attendance were in tears, he said.
St. Francis spokesman Chris Lofgren said Saturday the discount offered to the Haitian Hearts program softens the blow. ''It probably is a deeper discount than other contracts'' at the hospital, he said.
''We're contacted by a wide variety of groups for international kids. We have to get a handle on services provided to all international patients, including Haitian Hearts patients,'' Lofgren said.
With fund-raising from the Haitian Hearts group, about 15 patients will be served annually, Lofgren said. ''We are not turning our back on the Haitian Hearts program.''
Carroll said the hospital's support of $257,000 was in addition to a 45 percent discount for the children's care, a discount that he believes was above the hospital's actual costs.
Carroll worked at St. Francis for 21 years but was fired in December after a dispute with hospital officials over care standards in the emergency department. He still retains hospital privileges, however.
At the time, hospital officials said support for Haitian Hearts would continue, though Carroll expressed concern that it would diminish or end.
If the hospital cannot afford the program, top executives should take pay cuts and channel that money into the program, Carroll said Saturday.
Surgeons have donated their services to the Haitian children, he said. Carroll also has financially supported the program himself.
Support for the program is ''the right thing to do,'' follows the mission of the Sisters of St. Francis and also provides valuable learning experiences for the hospital's residents and medical students, he said. ''These kids are from the developing world.''
Since the year began, the Haitian Hearts committee has raised more than $400,000, which Carroll said has been paid to Children's Hospital at St. Francis. It's raised more than $1 million in the past 41/2 years. That level of fund-raising will be difficult to sustain, he said.
Carroll said he was not sure when the hospital's support was ending, but he felt the fund-raising had been sufficient to treat the seven Haitians he brought here at the end of June.
Lofgren said he also was unsure when the cutback goes into effect, but the hospital's fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
1. As Haitian Hearts predicted, OSF cut all financial support for Haitian Hearts. Behind the scenes Keith Steffen had indicated all along that he was going to cut support. (Behind the scenes Mr. Steffen also said that Haitian kids make him want to vomit...) And Chris Lofgren told the public that OSF was not turning their back on the Haitian Hearts program....as they were cutting all financial support for the program.
2. Now OSF was going to charge Haitian Hearts 55% of total charges per case. This was a lot of money. We raised money with spaghetti dinners and selling cookies. And this would mean the death of Haitian children.
3. No OSF Sisters were present at the meeting. Sister Judith Ann had told me multiple times that they would never turn down a child. But at the same time the Sisters were allowing their administrators to cut all funding for these kids. The Sisters had lost control of the hospital. And it was going to get worse in the coming years.