Friday, February 16, 2007

The 1995 Reader Story That Just Got a Sun-Times Reporter Handcuffed

Posted By on 02.16.07 at 08:31 PM

What could Dr. Robert Simon, the chief of Stroger Hospital, possibly have told the Reader 12 years ago that would have led to a Sun-Times reporter getting cuffed at the hospital on Thursday?

Here's the full Reader story, written when Simon ran the old County Hospital's department of emergency medicine.

Here's the money quote: "I did not come here to help the bum on the street -- the alcoholic or drug addict who comes to the ER 40 times a year just to get a place to sleep. I didn't come here for 'the homeless,' because I've worked for 18 years in emergency medicine -- I know what 'the homeless' really are. I'm not a liberal. Die-hard liberals talk about 'the homeless.' If they actually saw what they're defending I don't think they'd be so die-hard. Most of the homeless really don't care about themselves or are psychiatrically impaired. You can give them any opportunity in the world, and they would not take advantage of it. They could do things for themselves, but they won't. So who the hell cares about them?"

And here's the backstory. which the Sun-Times barely mentioned because it decided to focus instead on reporter Steve Patterson's arrest and the dubious history of the Stroger Hospital police force. Ed Shurna, director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, says anger over budget cuts ordered at Stroger hasn't been limited to poor people who use the hospital. Doctors have called him to share their anguish, says Shurna, and they've told him they dug up the old Reader interview and confronted Simon with it. Shurna says Simon said now you know where I'm coming from. (On Thursday Simon told WMAQ's Carol Marin he was misquoted in the Reader story.)

Thursday's rally by Shurna's organization was about both the cuts and Simon's supposedly heartless approach to his job -- though the Reader interview, conducted by reporter Sarah Bryan Miller, portrays a complex, driven, arrogant idealist who believes ardently in some sort of universal health coverage. Miller, by the way, is now the classical music critic at the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. And the Reader stands by her story. 

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