Chicago hospitals saw more homicides and victims of gun violence this year than car crash victims, an unusual proportion compared to previous years, new data shows.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a historically busy day for accident trauma, Loyola University Medical Center officials say no one was killed in car accidents, but instead six people were killed and at least 17 others were wounded in gun violence.
Data released Wednesday by Loyola shows trauma centers are filling up with more victims of gun violence across the city and the trauma is placing an extra burden on hospitals.
“A number of resources are being taken up by people that have gunshot wounds,” said Dr. Tom Esposito, director of the division of trauma and surgical critical care and burn at Loyola University Medical Center. “It puts a greater strain on our ability to care for other patients that are having heart attacks or strokes or asthma attacks.”
Esposito said the hospital staff is prepared to handle injuries of all sorts but that they are spending increasing amounts of time taking care of patients whose wounds could have been prevented.
“All of these things are in fact preventable and controllable,” Esposito said.
Esposito estimated that 80 percent of trauma victims arrive due to blunt trauma, which ranges from falls, car accidents and head injuries. He said the other 20 percent is made up of penetrating injuries like stabbings and gun shots, which he attributes to be mostly from violent incidents.
Loyola is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Illinois verified by the American College of Surgeons, and Esposito notes the economic impact violent injuries have is growing.
The hospital said the total costs for treating a gunshot victim can exceed $1 million, which includes charges for hospital services, supplies such as drugs, and hospital rooms and procedures.
“We’d like to see no money spent on injury care,” the hospital said in a press release.
“The cost of injury to an individual and their family is heartbreaking but the cost to public health is bank-breaking,” says Esposito, who has cared for trauma patients at Loyola for more than two decades.
The Chicago area, where Esposito is a trauma surgeon, continues to lead the country in gun violence, the hospital said.