On anniversary of tragedy, youth leaders push again for trauma center

On anniversary of tragedy, youth leaders push again for trauma center

On August 15 of last year, a young man named Damian Turner was shot near the intersection of 61st and Cottage Grove, in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. He didn’t die immediately, and an ambulance arrived to ferry him off for potentially life-saving medical treatment.

The ambulance that picked Turner up drove to Streeterville, north of the Loop, and home of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Turner was treated. It did not travel, in other words, to the University of Chicago Medical Center, located a few blocks from where Turner was shot. The hospital complex does not have a level-one trauma center for adults that can handle such emergencies, having closed its center back in 1988.

Turner, an active community member who helped to create a youth organizing group called FLY, or Fearless Leading by the Youth, eventually died from his wound.

Since his death, FLY has demanded the University of Chicago Medical Center add a trauma center to its sprawling set of facilities in Hyde Park. The push has included protest marches, demonstrations and Chicago City Council hearings. And on Sunday, Turner’s friends, family members and organizer colleagues camped out in tents near the corner of 58th Street and Maryland Avenue, in the heart of the medical center, to renew their demand that the center’s management add trauma facilities for adults.

Chicago presently has four level-one trauma centers, according to state regulators: Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital in Lincoln Park; John H. Stroger Hospital in the Near West Side medical district; Mt. Sinai Hospital Medical Center in Lawndale; and Northwestern in Streeteerville.

Jasamine Harris, a FLY leader, said the higher level of violence in South Side neighborhoods is enough for the medical center to justify adding a trauma center to its operations. Here’s Harris speaking about the issue Monday morning:

A spokesman for the medical center did not immediately have a response to FLY’s camp-out but sent a general statement to The Chicago Reporter that reads in part, “Trauma care is part of a much larger issue of unmet health care needs, shrinking resources and the necessity for a coordinated regional response on the South Side.” Here’s more from the medical center:

The University of Chicago Medical Center, a 530-bed facility, cannot by itself solve all the problems of an area that has lost more than 2,000 hospital beds in recent decades. Although the Medical Center continues to serve as a pediatric trauma center, it does not currently have the resources to handle both pediatric and adult trauma centers, while still maintaining a long list of other badly needed specialty services.”

That response will not satisfy FLY. Another one of the group’s organizer’s, Porshanetta Calhoun, said her organization will keeping pushing to achieve its demands. Take a look at what Calhoun said yesterday:

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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  • That is something I did not even know, that U of C had closed it's trauma center. What a disgrace. As large as they are, and with their reputation, if anyone should be able to have one it is them.. I thought emergency care wards of all hospitals could treat people with life threatening injuries. The time it takes to move such a person and the movement certainly does not contribute to their propects of survival or recovery. Keep fighting. I hope they will have one if I every need it.

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    I hope others continue to join the movement for a trauma center on the south side, an issue that shows the life-and-death stakes of the struggle against racial and economic disparity in healthcare access in Chicago. U of C needs to be held to account as the institution receiving by far the largest public subsidy in the area and most able to fill this dire need.

  • Nobody's arguing that the south side doesn't need another trauma unit: it clearly does. It's a long drive between Northwestern, County and Mt. Sinai up north and Advocate Christ Medical Center down in Oak Lawn. But that's not the only issue, especially in this economy. Trauma units are notoriously expensive to run. There isn't a trauma unit in the country that actually makes money for its hospital or medical center: due to a higher rate of uncompensated care (charity care, bad debt, uninsured and underinsured patients), a trauma unit always loses money and must be subsidized by billing for other hospital patients (or, in the case of Stroger, county tax revenues). It's really no surprise that several hospitals, including U of C and Loyola, dropped out of the Chicago area trauma network within just a few years of when the network was established back in the mid-1980s; it was a matter of prestige to be in the network until all that uncompensated care began rolling in. Then it was just a huge burden.

    You can protest all you want, but unless you can come up with the several million dollars it would take to re-establish and equip a new trauma unit PLUS another several million a year needed to staff and supply it 24/7/365 (in addition to another X million for an uncompensated care fund), that trauma unit will remain a figment of your imagination. All the money that U of C used to spend on its trauma unit has been redirected toward regular patient care and research -- that's their mission now. Besides, like everything else, trauma care has only gotten more expensive since the med center closed its unit. So: where will *you* get the money? Because U of C doesn't have that kind of money lying around, and this would be an ongoing expense with a huge initial investment.

    One note: U of C still accepts pediatric trauma cases at its Comer Children's Hospital so long as that unit isn't already full (trauma units that are full go on 'bypass' temporarily and ambulances are redirectected to the next closest trauma unit). Damian Lewis's problem was that he was too old to be a pediatric emergency case, which was why the ambulance took him to Northwestern instead.

  • In reply to webdiva:

    Whoops!! Sorry, I meant Damian Turner, not the British actor ... Freudian slip. [blush]

  • PS - If you include Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and Advocate Lutheran General Medical Center in Park Ridge up by O'Hare, the near metro area really has six trauma units, even though only four are within the city limits. Trust me, if you have a life-threatening emergency at O'Hare, the paramedics will take you to Lutheran General, not all the way down to Illinois Masonic, unless Lutheran General is on bypass. Same goes on the south side: if you're an accident victim in Beverly or Scottsdale, you'll be going to Advocate Christ, not up to Mt. Sinai or Stroger. In the Damian Lewis case, it's a lot shorter and faster getting from Hyde Park to Northwestern via Lake Shore Drive than it would have been to go crosstown all the way to Advocate Christ. But yes, that still leaves this huge gap in the middle of the south side. Advocate Trinity on the far east side and Roseland have ERs that aren't even Level II -- they're fine to set a broken bone or deliver a baby, but not for trauma.

  • In reply to webdiva:

    [ouch, did it again; Turner, I meant Turner ...]

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