Sick and tired of medical mayhem? Do your homework

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Back in the day, a person could find out a lot more about local hospitals. And that is a good thing. After all, it’s not like you are going in for an oil change.

Harvard Hospital, the county’s first, was the last in the area to go private. Begun in 1898 by Dr. Horace W. Johnson, Cottage Hospital began in humble surroundings – a small, brick building at Front Street and Route 14. In 1997, Harvard Memorial Hospital made the decision to go private after 41 years a public hospital. And when the estimated $90,000 in tax dollars went away, so did the unique public access into its business side.

Of course, this is nothing unusual. The American Hospital Association reports that just 2% of the nation’s hospitals are public. Mercyhealth Hospital and Medical Center–Harvard, as the old Harvard Hospital now is called, is part of a huge healthcare network. Northwestern, Advocate and AMITA operate the remaining hospitals in our area.

The financial and logistical challenges facing hospitals have been well documented – from evolving health insurance plans, to drug costs to servicing the poor. McHenry County residents are fortunate to have so many health care options to choose from in our area. Still, how do you choose?

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C., recently came out with its list of top hospitals – none of which are located in this area. The list is based on the results of optional surveys Leapfrog sends to hospitals. About 2,100 hospitals completed the surveys and were considered.

Semiannually, Leapfrog assigns hospitals grades of A through F based on dozens of measures of safety that include hand hygiene, intensive care unit physician staffing, bedsores and falls. The top hospitals list takes those measures into account as well as additional factors, such as C-section rates, rates of episiotomies during childbirth and radiation doses for pediatric patients during CT scans.

Northwestern hospitals in Huntley and McHenry received A grades in fall 2019. Advocate Sherman received a B. AMITA Health St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin received a C, as did Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. Mercy Harvard chose not to participate in the survey.

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As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with coronavirus, E. coli contamination in our sprouts and Salmonella bacteria on chicken, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned Americans that we are poisoning ourselves with “forever chemicals” that take thousands of years to degrade.

According to the Associated Press, the FDA found substantial levels of a worrisome class of nonstick, stain-resistant industrial compounds in some grocery store meats and seafood and in off-the-shelf chocolate cake. The levels in nearly half of the meat and fish tested were two or more times the existing federal advisory level for these per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances, or PFAS.

Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Tara Rabin said Monday that the agency thought the contamination was “not likely to be a human health concern,” even though the tests exceeded the sole existing federal PFAS recommendations for drinking water.

DuPont created nearly 5,000 varieties of PFAS starting in the 1930s – used for everything from nonstick cookware to food packaging, carpets to dental floss. A federal toxicology review concluded the compounds are more dangerous than previously thought.

“What this calls for is additional research to determine how widespread this contamination is and how high the levels are,” Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, told the Associated Press. “We have to look at total human exposure — not just what’s in the water or what’s in the food or not just dust. We need to look at the sum totals of what the exposures are.”

Jamie DeWitt, a toxicologist at East Carolina University who studies PFAS, noted: “Individually, each item is unlikely to be a huge problem, but collectively and over a lifetime, that may be a different story.”


A local organic farm, Hasselmann Family Farm of Marengo, is providing the building blocks for Palatine artist and musician Barbara Kronau-Sorensen. The Farm Art exhibit in the Palatine Public Library, 700 N. North Court, uses bric-a-brac collected by Sorensen at the Harmony Road farm.

“I met them at the Palatine Farmers' Market one morning and got their contact information. … I started gathering feathers, pressing flower and helping out at farmers markets in the summer so I could learn about the different cuts of meat,” Sorensen said. “I wanted to support the organic stuff. I’m really into it. That’s who I am.”

The free Farm Art exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Jan. 31.
You can help the McHenry County Historical Society preserve part of its collection by adopting an endangered artifact. Because of an object’s condition at the time of its donation, or simply due to the ravages of time, these objects are too fragile to exhibit.

Your tax-deductible donation to the Adopt an Artifact program will support the restoration and storage of an artifact of your choosing and preserve its historical significance. It is a unique way to get involved with the museum’s collection and help provide the support needed to continue to collect and preserve the history of McHenry County.

New opportunities include:

• The donation of a 22-foot-long temporary storage space for our 1928 Seagrave Fire Engine. Also needed are four reproduction tires, so that the former Woodstock Fire Department engine is safer to drive, and a custom dust cover to protect the engine while it is in storage.
• Reconstruction and stabilizing of early McHenry County survey from John Brink, dating back to 1854.
• The restoration of survey notebooks from the Tryon family of early county surveyors – Charles H. and his grandsons, Charles L. and George L.
• Tryon family plat book dating back to the county’s earliest developments.
• A circa 1895 Victorian parlor settee

Benefits include a personalized adoption packet that includes a certificate of adoption, a photograph of your artifact and a description of its historical significance, a Historical Society membership for one year, acknowledgment in the Tracer quarterly magazine and signage recognizing your donation alongside the restored artifact. For more information, visit or call 815-923-2267.

• Kurt Begalka, former administrator of the McHenry County Historical Society & Museum.

Published Jan. 27, 2020 in the Northwest Herald

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