No South Side Level 1 Trauma Centers Leads to Reality Check

A woman was shot and critically wounded in her legs during a drive by at 61st & Cottage Grove a few weeks ago.

Despite the fact she was literally three blocks from one of the best teaching hospitals in the country (or maybe even the world), she was taken to Northwestern hospital for treatment approximately nine miles north.


I was completely baffled by this one. Then I got angry.

But my anger was punctuated by a moment of clarity before I posted an angry screed about the University of Chicago Hospitals.

I calmed down and dialed a friend. Not just any friend but a friend who has her Master's in Public Health (MPH) from UCLA and an all around good egg. 

As I describe the situation and heavily editorialize about how U of C has instituted a very unpopular emergency room policy, she let me vent and gave a simple reply: "Maybe they're not certified Level 1 trauma."

"Not certified Level 1 trauma? What? A hospital is a hospital right?"


Not that I doubted her, but as I soon learned, she was absolutely correct.

A quick search on the internet revealed that the city of Chicago has four Level 1 trauma centers, with none being on the south side

Yet, the University does have a Level 1 pediatric trauma center. So if you're a child, you'll be well taken care of. 

To add to the fun, Provident Hospital has now closed its doors to ambulances for good.

Yeah, it's pretty appalling and downright scary.  Twenty three years without a Level 1 trauma at the University of Chicago Hospitals is just frightening.

Now I'm not saying my first impulse wasn't to go all "ride or die" on the hospital administration, but a radical thought came into my head: Instead of demanding that the U of C do something about this health care desert, why don't we as south siders work with them on a viable solution?

And when I say viable solution, I mean this might involve actual real hard work.

Researching and asking for medical & financial information from the other trauma centers in the city; identifying the best and brightest medical talent and asking what might make them work at a south side trauma facility; working with the University to perhaps start a separate endowment or foundation to finance a new trauma center.

Because let's be clear, from the information I've found, trauma centers are money losers. So it looks like if one if ever going to come back, it will have to be funded by nice fat juicy endowment money.

I'll be honest with you, right now I don't know exactly what one needs to get a Level 1 up and running from scratch, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that if we all put our heads (and money) together it can happen.

Pissing and moaning at the University won't solve the problem.

I don't know about you, but if an emergency arises I don't want to ride 9 miles north.


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  • In trauma situations they call the first 60 mins the "golden hour". I understand your frustration, but nine minutes isn't so bad. There are places in this country where there are NO trauma centers that can be reached in 60 mins. (and more of those places than you would think.) And you're right about trauma centers being REALLY expensive and total money losers, kudos for you for doing a bit of research on this and proposing some solutions that the whole community can get behind!

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