University of Chicago Reveals Plan to Build Level 1 Adult Trauma Center

The University of Chicago Medicine has announced plans to build a Level 1 adult trauma center at its medical center campus, answering the years-long calls from South Side activists who said the lack of a trauma center dramatically impacted the odds of survival for victims of violence-plagued communities.

Earlier this fall, University of Chicago Medicine and Sinai Health System announced a partnership that would offer Level 1 adult trauma care at Holy Cross Hospital, but the university has since decided that “integrating an adult Level 1 trauma center with its Level 1 pediatric trauma program, and burn and complex wound center would be of great benefit to South Side patients.”

“At the end of the day, we realized that integrating all of these services on one site, on our campus, made the most sense for South Side patients,” Sharon O’Keefe, president of the University of Chicago Medical Center, said in a statement.

Plans for the trauma center include an expansion of the hospital’s emergency department and an increase in inpatient beds. The hospital will also ask for additional hospital beds for specialty care such as cancer, trauma and emergency services.

“I applaud the University of Chicago’s plan to strengthen access to the care the community needs most,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Having access to a Level 1 adult trauma center, alongside increased access to emergency and specialty care, will strengthen our entire network of care on the South Side.”

For years, activists have sought the trauma center, citing the distance to other areas for care.

Sheila Rush told NBC Chicago her 17-year-old son, Damian Turner, was shot and killed in a random drive-by incident just a few blocks from the University of Chicago hospital. Damian was transported 10 miles away to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died, but Rush believes he would still be alive if the trauma center were closer.

Level 1 trauma centers are located at Northwestern, Stroger, Mount Sinai, Loyola and Illinois Masonic hospitals. The only Level 1 trauma center on the South Side is at Christ Advocate Medical Center, which the protestors say is often on bypass, meaning patients have to go elsewhere.

The University of Chicago's last Level 1 trauma center closed in 1988 after two years of operation. 

"In this moment, the whole world is watching Chicago and its history and practice of institutional racism," the Trauma Care Coalition said in a statement. "The decision by President Robert Zimmer and Dean Kenneth Polonksy of the University of Chicago to listen to the community and concede to the demand to open a Level I Adult Trauma Center and save black lives shows that young black people can absolutely impact policy and influence political change for the betterment of the black community."

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