Oct 5, 2011
Protestors demanding a trauma center returned to the University of Chicago Medical Center on Sept. 28, marching around the new hospital pavilion and into the construction area.
Six construction workers gaped from a loading dock and when the police shepherded the protestors out past the chain-link fence, the workers came out to pick up fliers decrying the lack of care for gunshot and car accident victims on the South Side.
The protest coincided with what would have been the 20th birthday of Damian Turner, a Woodlawn activist that was shot in the heart in August 2010 and died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s trauma center downtown. The community group that Turner founded, Fearless Leadership by the Youth, marched on the university repeatedly over the last year to demand a trauma center on the South Side, which the group believes would have saved Turner’s life.
“Those pharaohs who dominate our hospital care and literally hold our lives in their hands whisper, ‘we don’t need a trauma center,” prayed Hyde Parker Rev. Finley Campbell before the march. “One year has passed and I wonder if we have broken through that static hard heart.”
Regardless of whether the group’s message has resonated with hospital leadership, it has not convinced them to open a trauma center.
“It’s not our expertise anymore,” said Dr. Stephen Weber, the chief medical officer and vice president for clinical effectiveness at the University of Chicago Medical Center, during an interview Sept. 28. “The flow of patients in Chicago should be to the most expert care available.”
The university operated a trauma center briefly when the system was first started in the mid-1970s, but shut the unit down in 1988 citing $2 million in yearly losses.
Dr. Weber presented a familiar argument against reopening the trauma center: Trauma care is a medical specialty and to provide it the hospital would have to reduce or eliminate other specialty care programs.
“You can’t do everything so you try to identify where your strengths are.” Dr. Weber said. “You want to do it right and you want to do it well, so you have to make choices.”
The university’s position has similarly failed to convince the protest group.
Despite the now-static positions of both sides, the issue continues to progress. Aside from the Herald, the city’s media continue to cover the protests and politicians continue their involvement after the close of last year’s election season.
“It’s not a socio-economic issue, it’s a right to appropriate medical care,” said 20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran during the march up Cottage Grove Avenue to the hospital.
“It’s not fast enough, as far as I’m concerned,” Cochran said of the time it takes ambulances to get from Woodlawn and Hyde Park to Northwestern or the county’s Stroger Hospital. “People should take some responsibility.”
During the last election, Cochran and his opponents called on the university to open a trauma center and Cochran also pressured the Illinois Department of Public Health the investigate the issue.
The public health department’s State Trauma Advisory Council did pick up the issue in March. According to meeting notes from March and June, the council has not made any progress because there is no reliable data available to determine how lack of trauma care may be affecting patients. The council is currently working to update its databases on trauma care.
Without the involvement of the department of public health or another body sufficiently able to perform the research, the severity of the problem of lack of trauma care remains unknown. Across the city, about 96 percent of trauma victims survive their injuries, but it is unknown whether outcomes could be improved for South Side trauma victims.
By SAM CHOLKE, Staff Writer, Oct. 5, 2011