Sinai Health System and University of Chicago Medicine are delaying until 2016 a push to get approval from rivals to build a Level 1 trauma center on Chicago's Southwest Side.
Crunching data provided by the Chicago Fire Department has proved to be time-consuming, and without an urgent need to build the center, Dr. Gary Merlotti said he wants to make sure everything in the presentation is as accurate as possible.
Merlotti is chairman of the surgery department at Mount Sinai Hospital, which is part of West Side-based Sinai. The health system and separately owned U of C Medicine announced in September their plans to open a trauma center at Holy Cross Hospital, also part of Sinai, after years of protests.
Activists have called on Hyde Park-based U of C Medicine in particular to reopen its long-closed adult trauma center, saying the three-hospital system hasn't done enough for patients on the South Side. But instead U of C Medicine decided to give Sinai a one-time payment of $40 million to renovate Holy Cross' emergency department (it's one of the busiest in the city) and build a tower that would house the new center, among other services.
Sinai and U of C Medicine originally planned to present their proposal Thursday to a regional committee. They must get permission from the committee, which consists of the leaders of the six Chicago Level 1 trauma centers (Sinai and U of C Medicine already have one vote each) before moving on to state regulators. Level 1 centers are designated by the state and provide the highest level of care to most severely injured patients, such as those who are shot or in car crashes.
The committee's meetings are closed to the public. Crain's has asked the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor's office to intervene and is awaiting the decision.
Merlotti said the presentation likely would happen at the next committee meeting, scheduled for March. A team of seven people from Sinai and U of C Medicine are working to prove their case.
The team has two main areas where they believe a trauma center at Holy Cross would be a “significant” improvement, Merlotti said:
- Determining the transport times from where patients are injured on the South Side to a trauma center, especially those with excessively long journeys.
- Figuring out how often the South Side is uncovered by medical care because of hospitals that close their emergency rooms to ambulances when they have too many patients. It's known as going on bypass.
“Holy Cross is not the perfect location, but it's a good location,” Merlotti said.