University of Chicago Medicine will establish a Level 1 adult trauma center at its Hyde Park campus on Chicago's South Side, scrapping plans to develop one in collaboration with Holy Cross Hospital and giving community activists exactly what they demanded from the start.
The new trauma center is part of a major investment UChicago says it will make in its surrounding community, including the previously announced construction of a new and expanded emergency department, as well as a “substantial increase” in the amount of inpatient beds to support the new trauma and emergency-care operations and specialty care.
The trauma center will be the first on Chicago's South Side since 1991, when Michael Reese Hospital, located about four miles north of UChicago, ended its trauma program. Michael Reese closed in 2008.
Community activists have long complained that the academic medical center disregards the needs of the many lower-income neighborhoods around it while positioning itself as an elite tertiary- and quaternary-care provider competing with the likes of Northwestern Medicine's flagship hospital in downtown Chicago.
The hospital said it made the change to "ensure Chicago's South Side community has access to comprehensive adult trauma care." Officials aren't yet able to provide a dollar figure for the investment, but said they would know more once they file for state approval in the first quarter.
UChicago announced in September that it would work with Chicago-based Sinai Health System to develop a Level 1 trauma center at Holy Cross, despite calls by activists for a facility on the UChicago campus. The Trauma Care Coalition called the Holy Cross project a victory but said it still wouldn't serve large swaths of the South Side that could be served by a facility on the university campus.
“From the very beginning, what has mattered most is making sure that patients have access to the highest level of trauma care where the needs are great,” Karen Teitelbaum, CEO of Sinai Health System, said in a statement. She said the system would offer support and expertise from its own experiences with the Level 1 trauma center at Mount Sinai Hospital on the city's West Side.
When asked whether Sinai was disappointed that it has lost an opportunity to operate a second Level 1 center, a system spokeswoman said, “We are pleased that there will be Level 1 care for the community.”
Sharon O'Keefe, president of University of Chicago Medicine, said clinicians and leaders from Sinai and UChicago concluded that, with the planned construction of a new emergency room and growing specialty care, there was a significant opportunity to integrate services between an adult trauma center and the hospital's existing Level 1 pediatric trauma program at Comer Children's Hospital, along with its Burn and Complex Wound Center. There were clinical synergies between departments that treat all ages like anesthesiology and radiology, as well as staff coverage from nursing and technical employees to make the move worth it, she said.
“(We decided) this could be a very viable if not the best solution for adult trauma,” O'Keefe said, noting that the health system was already going to have to broaden its inpatient capacity with existing plans.
Activists did not respond to requests for comment on the decision, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement applauding the university's plan to “strengthen access to care the community needs most.”
“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,” Emanuel said.
O'Keefe said UChicago has “never disagreed with the activists or any of the community stakeholders that the South Side of Chicago is underserved.” She said today's decision was incredibly well-received by the community, activists and government leaders.
The system will now file a certificate-of-need application with the state of Illinois to expand its bed count and emergency department, in addition to seeking approval for Level 1 adult trauma center status. O'Keefe said the CON will likely be filed early next year, which would position the hospital for a hearing in the second quarter. Construction, once approval is gained, is estimated to take 18 to 24 months and could end in early 2018 if everything goes smoothly.