Advocate Christ's East Tower provides state-of-the-art services

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Less than 24 hours after the eight-story East Tower at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn officially opened on Sunday, the first baby was born in the new birthing center on the second floor, which is dedicated to women and children services.

Officials of the hospital at 4440 W. 95th St., said Chicago resident Crystal Baker gave birth to Leonardo, weighing in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces, at 12:38 a.m. Monday.

But before he got to take a look around, Oak Lawn officials, residents and others connected to the hospital in some way were given guided tours on Jan. 6, following a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the facility.

The eight-story building has 357,000 square feet of space, and cost $222 million.

Outside the interfaith Molenhouse Chapel on the first floor is a prayer wall, where prayer requests can be slipped into pockets of light between translucent panels.

The first floor also includes a lactation center, with consultation rooms as well as a retail center where breast pumps and other equipment new mothers may need can be rented. Clothing for mothers and babies may also be purchased.

In addition to labor and delivery suites, including eight for high-risk patients, the second floor has four C-section surgical suites. Three of the surgical suites are equipped to deliver singlets and twins, and the fourth is big enough for triplets.

The second-floor birthing center also features family waiting rooms, and a play area for young children. A private lounge, called Jane’s Room, was donated by the Jane B. Wellstein Memorial Fund for use by families grieving the loss of an infant.

A pedestrian bridge across Kostner Avenue links the second floor with the newly built Garage A, which has 780 parking spaces. The floor is also connected to the existing neonatal intensive care unit.

The third through fifth floors are mechanical space, while the sixth floor is a continuation of women and children services, and houses 36 post-partum delivery rooms and the infant nursery.

“The 12 beds in the nursery are a relatively small number, because the goal is for healthy babies to stay with mothers in their rooms,” said tour guide DeAnna Malloy.

Family lounges on the sixth, seventh and eight floors, have vending machines, showers and lockers, allowing families to take breaks from the patient rooms but remain on the same floor.

The seventh and eighth floors house 42 private intensive care rooms, and 30 -private “step-down” rooms, for those transitioning from intensive care to a general unit. The seventh floor is the medical intensive care unit, while the eighth is for cardiovascular thoracic ICU, for heart- and lung-transplant patients.

What amazed most visitors taking tours was the Smart Technology available in every room. Among other things, electronics in every room can read the IDs worn by all the medical professionals, and each time they come in their visits are recorded. Their names are also displayed on large computer screens in the rooms, so patients can see them, and the visits are automatically recorded on the patients’ medical records. Patients can also use the computers to go online.

Lights outside the rooms alert nursing staff if they are being called, and change color also when nurses enter them, making it easier for a whole floor to be surveyed.

“The only thing that could make it better would be self-making beds, and self-cleaning bedpans,” joked retired Dr. Carolyn Smeltzer, 91, who toured the facility last Friday following the ribbon-cutting.

Back on the first floor, there is also an updated Café 95 restaurant that is open to the public. In addition to featuring a wide-range of healthy food choices, it has Starbucks coffee, available at a service window in the hallway.

Kenneth Lukhard, the president of the hospital, said the unveiling was the culmination of a 10-year project that will put an end to overcrowding. He pointed out that the expansion plans were initially unveiled in 2008, but were put on hold until 2010 due to the downturn in the economy.

He said expansion plans began with the groundbreaking on Aug. 19, 2013.

Lukhard said that the 10-year growth plan that began with the opening of the new outpatient pavilion in 2014, will conclude with the expansion of the emergency services area using space freed up due to the East Tower opening. But aside from a new emergency room entrance, the exterior work has been completed.

The president said that due to overcrowding for virtually three months out of the year, the trauma center has been on bypass, unavailable to take in emergency patients. But that will no longer be necessary.

“We are thrilled that (the construction) is winding down. We are so appreciative of the good partner you have been to this village,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury.

“The complexity of what you have done here is astounding to me,” said the mayor, who is an optometrist. “We are bursting with pride and joy in Oak Lawn,” she added.

2 charged in Dunkin' Donuts robbery

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


The next court date is set for Feb. 3 in Bridgeview for two Chicago men who were charged following the Jan. 5 armed robbery of a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant at 6408 W. 95th St., in Chicago Ridge.

Chicago residents Alexander M. Harris, 18, and Darrius J. McLendon, 19, were being held in Cook County Jail. They are both charged with armed robbery, while Harris faces an additional count of discharging a weapon during a robbery.

Harris, of the 1100 block of East 47th Street, was also charged in a robbery that occurred Dec. 29 in the parking lot of a Party City store located beside the Dunkin’ Donuts, at 6440 W. 95th St.

In the Jan. 5 incident, according to witnesses, Harris came inside the restaurant about 3:06 p.m. wearing a dark hoodie and displaying a handgun. Police said he emptied two cash registers and fired one shot into the ceiling before fleeing outside, escaping in a black 2004 Pontiac driven by McLendon.

Oak Lawn police stopped the suspects in a black Pontiac G8 at 87th Street and Central Avenue, and witnesses identified them both. A black semi-automatic weapon and more than $500 in cash were found in the car.

McLendon, who had no criminal record, remained in Cook County Jail earlier this week on $250,000 bond .

Harris was being held there on $750,000 bond for the Dunkin’ Donuts robbery, and $250,000 bond for the Dec. 29 incident. In that case, he allegedly tapped on a woman’s car window with his handgun, and demanded her wallet and cellphone.

Harris also has a pending misdemeanor case for criminal damage to property in Chicago.

According to reports both McLendon and Harris are considered suspects in other area robberies, and police in Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn are investigating.

Palos Hills seeks new building commissioner

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The search for a new building commissioner for Palos Hills was at the forefront of topics discussed at last Thursday’s city council meeting.

The city is looking for a permanent replacement for Gene Nelson, the longtime building commissioner who died last year. Nelson was looking to retire from the position and was in the process of training Gene Newman.

However, Newman has indicated that he will be unable to take on the position on a full-time basis.

Mayor Gerald Bennett and the council agreed recently to advertise for someone to take on the role as a full-time building commissioner.

“When I was at city hall at night I knew how hard Gene Nelson worked,” said Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd). “Mr. Nelson was a good man who worked very hard. Gene Newman is also very conscientious and works hard.”

Stratton said the building commissioner position was originally full-time and was changed to part-time in an effort to save costs for the city. However, the board has reversed their position and made the building commissioner a full-time position again.

“We did change to part-time,” said Stratton. “But that position should not have been part-time in the first place. It’s not a part-time job. Gene Newman was working full-time hours. There is just a lot of work to do. A lot has to be done as a commissioner.”

Bennett said that it is early and will take some time before a full-time building commissioner can be found.

“Remember, we are looking for a new building commissioner,” Bennett reminded the board and audience.

A new head of the newly created animal control office and ordinance department is being sought. Bennett was asked if the salary was too high. The mayor responded that it is not.

“I have done a lot of research on this and the salary is competitive with other salaries of other municipalities,” said Bennett.

The city council honored two residents during the meeting. Vietnam veteran James Kruse and Chicago Blackhawks organist Frank Pellico were cited.

Kruse was named a “Senior of the Year” by Cong. Dan Lipinski’s (D-3rd) office. Kruse helped organize drop-off containers for residents to bring food items and letters to be sent to troops overseas. Kruse said he received support from many organizations including members of Sacred Heart Parish.

“One a solider, always a soldier,” said Kruse “However, it is those Americans who serve overseas that need our help. I remember when I was in the service. Sometimes you think, ‘does anybody besides our family care where what we are doing out here?’ It’s important to show we care. It means so much.”

Bennett presented Kruse with a plaque for his efforts.

“He’s really been great with the vets and he spends so much time helping them,” said Bennett. “He speaks at different events and sends items overseas to the troops. It’s nice to have someone who cares for the community.”

The mayor then presented an honorary street sign he had made up for Pellico, who has three Stanley Cup rings that he showed the audience. Pellico was also honored for an act of kindness in which he bought a meal for a Hickory Hills police officer at a local McDonald’s. Someone had paid for Pellico’s meal and he was returning the favor. He was highlighted a couple of months ago in a column by Dee Woods, a Reporter columnist.

“He wanted to share the victories with us,” said Bennett, about Pellico stopping by with his Stanley Cup rings. “He is a nice man and I’ve known him for a long time.”

The next Palos Hills City Council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.

Chicago Ridge trustees vote against Odelson appointment

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The Rev. Wayne Svida, pastor of Our Lady of the Ridge Church, opened the first Chicago Ridge Village Board meeting of 2016 with a prayer, and everything was going along swimmingly until it hit a rough patch, when trustees voted 4-2 against Mayor Chuck Tokar’s appointment of Burt Odelson as the village attorney.

Trustees Bill McFarland and Jack Lind were the only trustees to vote for the appointment, while trustees Bruce Quintos, Frances Coglianese, Sally Durkin and Amanda Cardin voted against it.

In a related move at the same meeting, trustees voted 5-1 to create the office of legislative consul, to be filled by another attorney chosen by the trustees. Lind was the only one to vote against that measure, which Odelson and Tokar see as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Several of the trustees who voted for the legislative consul, including Quintos and Cardin, said the office will serve the village well, acting as a second opinion called upon by trustees when they have any question about advice given by the village attorney.

“The attorney won’t be on retainer. He or she will just be consulted occasionally,” said Cardin.

Tokar named Odelson last June as the interim village attorney, replacing George Witous, who retired without notice after 51 years in the post.

“It was a political statement by at least two of the trustees against the mayor,” said Odelson afterward, taking the vote against him in stride. He knew that while the vote allowed trustees to show their disapproval, it had no effect on the mayoral appointment, which is made by the mayor alone.

“I’ll be here as long as the mayor wants me,” he said.

However, he did admit to taking the vote personally to some degree, because he is friendly with some of the trustees who voted against him. “How can you not?” he said.

“I saved them $100,000 in a year,” he asserted, explaining that in the latter years of Witous’ tenure, some of the work had to be farmed out to downtown firms.

“We charge $175 an hour and we do everything,” he said of his firm, Odelson & Sterk.

Odelson noted that he serves as attorney for 14 municipalities, 12 school districts, and even the Chicago Ridge Park District.

Tokar also questioned the logic of the vote against Odelson, pointing out that the trustees who voted against him had asked him last June to help sort out the controversy over health insurance provided free of charge to retired village officials. And he did that.

Odelson is seen as an expert in election law, and Tokar said, “Not too many villages have an attorney who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court,” said the mayor, pointing out that Odelson was involved in the case involving the 2000 election of George W. Bush over Al Gore.

Coglianese said the vote was not against Odelson personally. “I have nothing against him. It is just the procedure (of his appointment) I don’t like,” she said,

Quintos, who had pushed for the vote, said that as a home-rule community, Chicago Ridge should be governed by a mayor “with the advice and consent” of the trustees.

“We agreed to his interim appointment, with the understanding that we would be able to see who else was available, and vet all the candidates. But nothing was ever done and we were not consulted,” said Quintos.

“If the trustees could vote out a village attorney, I suppose they could also vote out a police chief, fire chief or any other appointed official. But they are all mayoral appointments. That is just how it is done,” said Tokar after the meeting.

Worth board OKs amendments with eye on economic development

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

In accordance with its ongoing economic development plans for Worth, the Board of Trustees approved amendments to two municipal codes at its Tuesday meeting.

According to the ordinances, the amendments will restrict certain businesses in the B-1 and B-2 business districts. However, the modifications will apply to future businesses, not the existing businesses.

In the B-1 district, all business establishments will be retail establishments dealing directly with consumers. All goods produced on the premises will be sold at retail on the premises where it is produced.

“Our primary focus as we move forward with our economic development plans is to encourage businesses providing sales tax revenue,” said Mayor Mary Werner.

Examples of permitted businesses include antique shops, automobile accessory stores, bicycle stores, camera and photographic supply stores and studios, clothing, footwear and dry goods stores, department stores, drug stores, etc.

Permitted uses in the B-2 district will include businesses such as amusement establishments within enclosed buildings, such as bowling alleys, gymnasiums, swimming pools, skating rinks, automotive vehicle and automotive equipment sales, banks, catering establishments, health clubs, gymnasiums, reducing salons and massage therapy establishments, medical and dental clinics and laboratories, pet shops and restaurants.

Certain businesses fall into a category designated as special use, such as places of assembly like theaters, churches and community centers.

Village Attorney Greg Jones suggested that the board consider eliminating these from the list of permitted uses in the amended ordinances. “It will not impact existing facilities, but will prohibit any additional future use,” he said.

In another discussion, Trustee Pete Kats, who is the liaison to the Public Works department, raised the issue of parked cars prohibiting the snow plowing efforts on village streets.

“I have received numerous complaints from residents whose street is not plowed because of cars being left on the street,” Kats said. “This is a major epidemic and is becoming a health and safety hazard. With cars parked on both sides of some of our streets, there is no way an ambulance or fire truck could get down the street.

“I am asking our board to consider this situation and formulate an ordinance prohibiting parking on both sides of the streets and after snowfalls of more than two inches,” added Kats. “We need to get something in place and then stick to enforcing it. Our residents need to realize that they can benefit themselves by not parking on the street.”

In other matters, the board heard a report on the recent audit conducted on village finances. The report was presented by John Williams of Hearne and Associates.

He reported that the village saw a slight decrease in its revenue this past year. 2015 revenues were $12.2 million as compared to $12.4 million in 2014. He attributed it to a reduction in property taxes collected.

Werner commented later that the reduction amounted to $200,000 not collected. She attributed it to people who appealed their tax bills and those who simply could not pay.

Total expenditures for the year were $12 million. “All expenditures were below budget,” Williams said.

Other board action approved a payment of $9,106.25 to Mid America Tree & Landscape, Inc., for flowers for the village’s annual planting day.

Also approved was a Resolution authorizing the village to close 111th Street from Ridgeland Avenue to Harlem Avenue on Aug. 28 for the Worth Days Parade.

Trustee Colleen McElroy said that the Beautification Committee is inviting businesses to participate in this year’s Patriotic Banner Program. Cost of the banner is $175 for the first banner and $150 for a second. They will be placed along 111th Street and Harlem Avenue, from Flag Day through Oct. 1. For further information on the program, contact McElroy at the village hall, (708) 448-1181.