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County General, often referred to simply as "County", is a community hospital located in Chicago, Illinois.

History

County General was loosely based on the real Cook County Hospital, now known as John H. Stoger Jr. Hospital. Julianna Margulies, who played Carol Hathaway and shadowed the hospital's ER nurses for research, has said that even the 1970s look of County General that was seen in the earlier seasons was similar to the appearance of Cook County Hospital.

Pre-1994

County General opened its doors to the public in 1898[1]. It was a publicly funded hospital, ergo it did not reject uninsured patients from treatment. In the 1960s, the addition of an emergency room was introduced at County through the work of Dr. Oliver Kostin.[2]

Throughout the following decades, County developed a reputation among Chicago's underprivileged as a safe haven with guaranteed treatment. An unfortunate side effect were chronic budget deficits throughout the 1990s and 2000s, making County a classic struggling inner-city hospital.

1994 - present

When South Side closed its doors in 1996 due to county cutbacks, many of its staff were relocated to County, and among them was Donald Anspaugh, who took over as the hospital's Chief of Staff.[3]

In 1997, County General ER fell victim to a benzene spill that left the main attending, Dr. Kerry Weaver unconscious, forcing resident Dr. John Carter to take charge of the chaotic situation.[4]

On Valentine's Day in 2000, while Dr. Carter and his medical student, Lucy Knight, were treating a patient with schizophrenia, the patient stabbed them both with a butcher knife while in a delusioned state.[5] Dr. Weaver later found them both lying on the floor, bleeding, and she began the effort to save both of their lives. Dr. Luka Kovač, Abby Lockhart, and Dr. Jing-Mei Chen took care of Carter, who was stabbed in the back, while Dr. Weaver and Dr. Malucci worked on Lucy, who was stabbed in the neck, chest and abdomen. Lucy had a tracheal laser action and Dr. Benton had to trache her. Soon after Carter's foley was filled with bright red urine from a bad renal lack, Benton took Carter to surgery, while Dr. Corday, Dr. Kovač, and Dr. Greene assisted Dr. Weaver in saving Lucy's life. Lucy went into cardiac arrest, and Dr. Weaver cracked her chest open in the ER with the sternal saw and she came back to life, though she soon died in the OR due to a pulmonary embolism, with Dr. Romano and Corday operating. Dr. Ansbaugh and Dr. Benton operated on Carter and saved his kidney, as well as his life.[6]

In 2002, County became the site of a smallpox scare.[7] During the hospital's evacuation, Dr. Robert Romano, who was the Chief of Staff at the time, had one of his arms amputated by a helicopter tail roter, and Dr. Susan Lewis and Dr. Kovač rushed to save his life. Romano went into v-tach in the OR from blood loss after the accident, but thanks to Kovač's quick thinking, he lived.[8] Romano was soon demoted after the accident when both Dr. Ansbaugh and the board became fed up with his laziness, and offered that Dr. Weaver assisted with his administrative duties. Romano refused the offer, so Dr. Ansbaugh fired Romano from his position and promoted Dr. Weaver in his place. Weaver soon gave Romano the position of Chief of the ER, and as a result, he fired three senior nurses, Yosh, Connie, and Lydia.

A year later, in 2004, a helicopter crash occurred in the ambulance bay of the hospital, resulting in the deaths of several staff members, including Romano.[9] In the same year, a deranged patient stole a tank and began a long journey through the city, leaving destruction in his wake as he attempted to return to County and attack Archie Morris, the medical student who had treated him.[10]

In 2009, the ER was the site of a ricin spill, caused by an injured bioterrorist.[11]

Safety

County General Hospital, located in inner-city Chicago, is notorious for its lax approach to security, mainly the result of budget shortages. During Valentine's Day 2000, medical student Lucy Knight and Dr. John Carter were attacked and stabbed by a schizophrenic patient.[5] Despite the ER and OR staff's best efforts, Lucy succumbed to her injuries and died, while Carter, who survived, was later left with kidney problems that would plague him for the rest of his life.[6]

Plans were later drafted to improve security in and around the hospital, but it took various further incidents involving firearms and other weapons being brought into the hospital. Losing patience, Carter, the main head of the ER, later staged a walkout, with many of the doctors and nurses joining him.[12] After the walkout, metal gate detectors were put in place, along with a protective door being installed, and various security guards being assigned around the hospital, however, despite these changes, it did not prevent various future shootings.[13][14]

Medical School Affiliation

Several storylines indicate that County General is affiliated with a specific medical school. The school is never named during the show, though it is known that several characters, including Mark Greene, Peter Benton, and all the characters depicted on the show as pre-residency medical students, including John Carter, Abby Lockhart, Greg Pratt, and Neela Rasgotra, attended the school.

In early seasons, helicopters serving the hospital were clearly painted with the colors and logo of the University of Chicago, and in season 5 when Carter is living in the medical school's dorms, he is seen wearing a Northwestern University sweatshirt. At many other times, Chicago and Northwestern are spoken of as distinct institutions from County General. The real hospital that County General is based on is affiliated with Rush Medical College.

Chiefs of Staff

Notable personnel

Current

Former

Other hospitals in Chicago

  • Mercy
  • St. Bart's
  • South Side (until 1996)
  • Northwestern

References

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