West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park joined U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th District) and other hospitals in the Resurrection Health Care chain Friday to kickoff Cover the Uninsured Week.

The national campaign, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a charitable health care organization, is attempting to raise awareness about the nearly 46 million uninsured Americans, including 8 million children.

The weeklong campaign runs from May 1 to May 7. West Suburban Medical Center, 3 Erie Court, hosted a health fair last Wednesday as preview to this week’s campaign, which features fairs, workshops and other activities at hospitals across the nation.

Other hospitals and medical centers in the Resurrection Health Care system will host events throughout the week.

“At each hospital, some are hosting health fairs; some are having special Masses; it just varies across the system,” said Resurrection Health Care spokesperson Anne Unger.

“This is the one system event that brought all the hospitals together to help kick it off,” she said of Friday’s event.

West Sub hosted a videoconference with all nine of Resurrection Health Care’s medical facilities to officially kickoff the week.

“At West Suburban, we’ve been providing compassionate care for those in need regardless of their ability to pay for more than 90 years,” said West Sub CEO Jay Kreuzer. “As health care providers, we have a special responsibility to improve the health in our community both inside and outside of the hospital.”

Resurrection Health Care estimates they provided $391 million in community care in 2005, including care to the uninsured and underinsured. West Sub estimates providing $23 million of free care in ’05.

According to the U.S. Census, approximately 45.8 million Americans, or 15.7 percent of the U.S. population, were uninsured in 2004. Among ethnic groups, Hispanics represent 34.4 percent of the uninsured while blacks make up 21.2 percent, according to figures from the Washington-based Employee Benefit Research Institute, an independent public policy research group.

Cong. Davis said more should be done to provide health coverage to those most in need, including having a national plan to insure all Americans.

“Not only do we have a responsibility to ourselves, but we have a responsibility to those who cannot always care for themselves,” said Davis. “It’s terrible to be illiterate, it’s terrible to live in dilapidated housing, and it’s absolutely terrible to be unemployed. But to suffer under any or all of these conditions and at the same time be sick, and have no recourse for wellness is worse.”

?”Terry Dean