‘This Is Shameful,’ Says Boykin of Hospital System’s Lack of Black Contractors

Saturday, December 16, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin  (1st) during a Dec. 11 press conference about the CCHHS’s lack of black contractors. | Courtesy Commissioner Boykin

As of October of this year, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System had spent around $165 million on contracts to purchase things like medical supplies and equipment, according to data provided by the county’s Office of Contract Compliance.

Most of those contracts, 80 percent, went to companies ostensibly owned by white males while 20 percent went to companies that are certified minority- or women-owned. African American-owned companies were awarded just 2 percent, or roughly $3.5 million, of those contracts — and all of them were subcontractors.

“This is shameful,” said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), whose district covers most of Proviso Township, during a phone interview on Dec. 15.

Boykin said he brought the issue to the attention of his board colleagues after discovering the disparity a few weeks ago. The commissioner emphasized that the $165 million total doesn’t include construction-related spending.

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Boykin weighed in on the issue during a Dec. 11 press conference held at the county’s administration building in Chicago and also during a Dec. 13 finance committee meeting.

“President Preckwinkle and the entire county board should be ashamed that these businesses have been essentially shut out of doing business with the Health and Hospitals System,” Boykin said.

“African Americans make up 26 percent of Cook County’s population and 76 percent of patients at CCHHS. Yet they’re earning two percent of the system’s procurement contracts,” he added, calling the problem both a “moral issue and a jobs issue.”

“This is stunning and shocking,” said Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo, Jr. (8th) during the Dec. 13 meeting, where Doug Elwell, the deputy CEO for finance and strategy for the Health and Hospitals System, addressed the commissioners’ concerns.

“We are trying to do better, but we have not done enough,” Elwell said, adding that there are only around 37 African American companies on the approved certified list that “do health-related stuff.”

According to Lisa Alexander, the county’s deputy director for contract compliance, currently CCHHS knows two minority-certified companies that can deliver medical supplies, but they’re Asian-owned.

Elwell said that the CCHHS officials were working on hiring a diversity company located in Cook County to help the system “get more people certified and develop contracts” with minority- and women-owned businesses.

But that effort was rebuffed by several commissioners who felt that hiring an outside company was an unnecessary step toward solving a problem whose solutions, commissioner said, are already well known.

“We don’t need a diversity company to tell us that we need to hire people in the county to do work,” said Commissioner Deborah Sims (5th). “You just have to have the willingness to give them the technical assistance, so they know what you’re asking for.”

Sims recounted the experience of a black-owned company in Chicago that “has jumped through every hoop you’ve asked them to jump through, done all the technical assistance,” but still wasn’t awarded a contract.

“In my previous life, I was a certified minority business and I understand the struggles,” said Commissioner Dennis Deer (2nd). “Many individuals don’t become certified because they have to jump through 1,000 hoops and they still don’t get selected.”

Deer said that he had met with Health and Hospital System officials earlier this year about contract compliance and had proposed a follow-up meeting, which he said never happened.

“We’re talking about a new firm and we haven’t even had our second meeting,” Deer said, before recommending that Elwell hold off on hiring the diversity company before the board holds another public meeting on the matter of contract compliance. That meeting is scheduled for some time in January.

Another possible disincentive to applying for certification, some commissioners pointed out, could be the Health and Hospital System’s recent practice of paying contractors late.

“I’ve had several minority firms that do business with CCHHS contact me about the system being far behind in terms of paying them,” said Boykin. “In some instances, almost a year behind. Is that normal operating procedure?”

“That is not normal,” said Elwell, explaining that the Health and Hospital System has struggled this year installing a new payment system. Elwell attributed the delayed payments, which he said are rare, primarily to processing errors. He added that, considering their limited cash flow, small businesses typically get priority over larger ones during the payment process.

Elwell said that there’s something of a division of labor when it comes to awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned companies. The different components of that process, however, don’t seem to communicate across their own silos, some officials indicated.

Although CCHHS has its own board of directors that is independent of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the county’s Office of Contract Compliance also plays a large part in the process of bringing minority- and women-owned companies into the fold.

Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th), the chairman of the Contract Compliance Committee — the five-member body that monitors the hiring of minority-and women-owned companies and facilities the certification process — seemed stunned, however, when Alexander told him that her office didn’t have access to a critical document called the GPO catalog.

A GPO, or group purchasing organization, is an entity that helps healthcare providers negotiate lower prices with vendors. Moore said that he’s spoken with a lot of minority firms that have struggled to be included in the GPO catalog.

“If you can’t get into the GPO catalog, then you can’t be chosen,” Moore said, before asking Elwell how many black and Hispanic firms are included in the catalog. Elwell said that he didn’t know.

Alexander said that her office has access to a directory of minority- and women-certified companies that is maintained by the county, but it doesn’t have access to the GPO catalog.

“That’s why this GPO catalog is so important,” Moore said. “How can you work to help with [minority- and women-owned business participation] if you don’t have access to the catalog they pull from?”

Larry Ivory, the founder, president and CEO of the Peoria-based Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, said that “the numbers don’t lie and they’re abysmal.”

“We have to be intentional about making sure that African Americans and other minorities get a chance to participate,” Ivory said during a Dec. 15 phone interview. Ivory was also in attendance at Boykin’s Dec. 11 press conference.

“Surely, the hospitals are benefactors of black people’s insurance, Medicaid and everything else,” he said, before recommending that CCHHS officials meet with the chamber, commissioners and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to discuss possible solutions. He also recommended that an evaluation of the contracting process be conducted and that county officials develop a strategy “and a game plan to fix the problem.”

“We were intentionally left out, which created a habit of leaving us out and therefore that created a culture of us being left out,” Ivory said. “The only way to change that is to create a habit and a culture of us being included. The same intentionality that was used to keep us out has to be used to include us in opportunities.” VFP 

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13 thoughts on “‘This Is Shameful,’ Says Boykin of Hospital System’s Lack of Black Contractors”

  1. I thank Commissioner Boykin for taking the lead on this issue. While it is expected that a health care system’s contractors would mostly be in the health care field, the Cook County Health and Hospital System should also consider hiring prime contractors in the construction, administration, research and marketing/communications and policy/advocacy/government relations arenas. They need to partner with a broad range of stakeholders including the City Colleges of Chicago; 2-year colleges throughout Cook County and other colleges and universities and business development organizations to invest in a pipeline of homegrown, minority-owned businesses. Progress needs to be monitored and shared publicly. Where there is a will there is a way.

  2. Boykin Seat must be up.. HE IS ONLY DOING THIS TO KEEP HIS NAME.. BECAUSE JOHNSON the new candidate that is running is NO Joke.. Because Boykin do not support BLACK BUSINESS AT ALL.

    1. PROVISO VOTER: Brandon Johnson is an amazing candidate. I saw his video clips on YouTube when he worked for the Chicago Teacher’s Union and organized the strike that Chicago was closing 50 public schools on the South and West Sides. Brandon is a progressive candidate that wants to treat the root cause of what’s going on in Cook County, and not the symptoms.

      Here are the videos that you should definitely watch, and help spread the word.

      1. Thanks for posting those links—I for sure will know not to ever consider voting for this guy. The very last thing we need in local government right now is a socialist playing the race card. No thank you. We need the best and most honest people running government. Cook County has turned into a cesspool of corruption, nepotism and taxes. We need someone who is going to help get things turned around and its certainly not a socialist!

  3. This is load of politically charged and politically correct BS.

    Contracts are not and should never be about race/creed/color.
    They should be about whomever delivers the best service at the best price.

    Stop being politically correct imbeciles and grow up. Deliver public a good service without having to inject issues that improve political egos and foster racial tension.

    Arguments like this ostensibly increase racial issues and inequalities.

  4. After reading this article…still Commissioner Boykin is still not making no sense about this. Here he is discussing “This is shameful,” while I do recall you stated “see the county cut Cook County Health and Hospitals System Oak Brook hospital campus, in which you described as under-utilized.” Boykin, your time is up as a Commissioner and you really need to step down and have a new face in office. Because what you’re saying is still treating symptoms and not treating the root causes.

  5. BILL: Well, I know that Richard Boykin is not fit for the job, Bill as the Cook County Commissioner. Even though I respect your opinion about candidate Brandon Johnson, Johnson is a progressive candidate that wants to reform the accountability that is taking place in Cook County.

    1. “Progressives” are socialists by another name. Citizens are being overtaxed to the breaking point in Cook County (and Illinois) with no end in sight and the last thing we need is someone like that that is not going to clean up any of the existing mess but only come up with more ways to spend our money on social issues. While socially laudible intentions are fine, someone has to pay for it. Middle class people with money are leaving by droves from the State and I guarantee you a socialist (Pritzger is another one) is not going to fix any of our problems

      1. BILL: I don’t believe that J.B. Pritzker is not a progressive candidate to run for the Governor of Illinois. He is part of a Democrat machine, that wants to really treat symptoms of what’s going on in the state of IL, and not treating the cause. However I do respect your opinion, I really think that Brandon Johnson is an amazing candidate that is not representing the Chicago Democrat political machine, and will fight for middle class and people as a Cook County Commissioner. He was apart of the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike in 2012 and helped organized it.

        Here is a clip of Governor Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker in 2011 doing an interview together:

  6. I have to agree with the best job for the best price structure. If a company is not included because of any other reasons is not legitimate.

  7. After reading all of this. Richard Boykin has to go.. if he is re-elected so should Trump.. he is a republican in sheep clothing.. He has had two failed marriages.. one didn’t even stay long enough before the ink dried, he use everyone.. Didn’t a small black owned women company put something out about not paying her for election I have to check my notes. But he made a statement to bring Marshall law only on Black boys. He cheated on his wife, with a lady at District 88 who is now moved up as a director. Remind you he was married at the time they were dating.. He moved his wife out of cook county. Maybe that Blood medical is not working like other things.. So, this republican.. Is only fighting to get paid.. He is doesn’t practice law at a republican firm.. Hell.. Donald Duck could run and I vote for him. His mother ran away from his father because of all of the beatings.. Richard stay at the Homeless shelter. So..Please you people don’t know 1/2 the store on Boykin. Just want he wants to tell you.. Don’t vote for him unless you love TRUMP…

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