Residents in an area vying for President Barack Obama's presidential library say they believe the area has a more important need that should be addressed first.
It would seem the University of Chicago campus would have the edge as it prepares its bid for the library, as the former employer of then teacher Barack Obama, but residents argue the lack of trauma care is an increasing issue in the area that needs to be a priority.
“There isn’t a trauma center on the South Side at all and for the past three years our organization has been fighting for one,” said Veronica Morris-Moore.
While University of Chicago’s children’s hospital has a trauma unit, the adult unit closed for financial reasons more than 15 years ago. Morris-Moore, part of FLY, Fearless Leading by the Youth, is among many pushing hard for the return of a South Side trauma center.
“How can you not be interested in saving the lives of the people in your community yet you’re interested in hosting the library of the President, who’s interested in saving the lives of the people in this very same community?” Morris-Moore said.
On Wednesday, the Hyde Park group Trauma Care Coalition staged a town hall and rally at the University Church near campus as part of an ongoing protest to build an adult Level 1 trauma center on the city’s South Side. The message: If the college aims to host the much-coveted, hotly debated library, then it should also make room for the trauma clinic.
Residents' calls for top-of-the-line emergency care have grown since the 2010 death of 18-year-old Damian Turner, a youth advocate who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting just blocks away from the world-class University of Chicago Medical Center. Even with the hospital so close by, Turner was required to be taken to the closest Level 1 trauma center at Northwestern Memorial -- nine miles away -- where he died.
The University of Chicago closed its trauma center in 1988 in order to cut costs.
“They already have the apparatus,” said Shannon Bennett of the Kenwood Oakland community organization. “They have the trauma center for children, it’s just to expand what they already have.”
Meanwhile, the location for President Obama's library and museum is up for grabs. Though he spent much of his career in Chicago, Obama went to college in New York City and grew up in Hawaii.
Last week, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan attempted to thwart the competition by pushing a highly controversial bill to earmark $100 million in state money for the construction of the library here in Obama's adopted hometown.