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Protest calls for top-level trauma unit at U of C

Updated: September 28, 2014 6:31AM



About a dozen protesters gathered Tuesday at the University of Chicago Medicine building to call on the hospital to offer a Level I trauma center for adults instead of moving forward with plans to build an outpatient clinic in Orland Park.

The U of C has announced plans to build a four-story medical building at 143rd Street and LaGrange Road if it gets approval from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. The project, which would be completed in 2018, is expected to be reviewed by the board on Wednesday.

The protesters said they will attend the meeting to argue that the anticipated cost of the Orland Park project — nearly $67 million, according to the state board — could be better spent creating a trauma center at the hospital’s campus in Chicago’s Hyde Park community.

The cost to operate a Level I trauma center, the highest level of emergency care, could not immediately be determined.

“This is just another movement to boost their profit,” Veronica Morris-Moore, 22, of Chicago’s Woodlawn community, said of the U of C. “This is not a move for the betterment of health care and community.”

Emilio Comay del Junco, a U of C student, said if the university “continues to ignore the needs of its community in favor of profits, the state needs to step in. That’s why we’re going back to testify at the state hospital board meeting.”

Activists led by a group called Trauma Care Coalition repeatedly have campaigned for a Level I trauma center at the U of C medical campus since the death of 18-year-old Damian Turner in 2010.

Turner was shot blocks away from the university but was taken across Chicago to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and ultimately died. A similar case happened last year with Kevin Ambrose, 19, who also died.

It’s not known whether either Ambrose or Turner would have survived if they had been taken to a closer hospital, but that’s the argument being made by the protesters.

The University of Chicago insists that it’s committed to its surrounding community, citing that it offers the only burn unit and trauma center for children on the South Side.

“But we also believe all our patients deserve to have the chance to benefit from our expertise in treating very complex disorders in their own communities,” the university said in a statement.

It added that developing a Level I adult trauma center would be a massive undertaking requiring significant hospital and state approvals, not to mention that it could “negatively impact the nine other trauma centers already serving Cook County in terms of their funding and certification.”

South Side residents live in Chicago’s only neighborhoods that are 10 miles or more from a Level I trauma center, where people who are severely wounded or injured usually are taken.

The problem has existed since 1989, when the university and Michael Reese Hospital closed their trauma centers — both citing an inability to operate them because they were losing too much money.



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