The South Side of Chicago might finally get back a trauma center to treat the most severely injured adults.
Illinois regulators approved University of Chicago Medicine's nearly $270 million campus expansion that includes a trauma center. The decision caps a relentless campaign among activists who long have called for such a specialized service in an area wracked by violence and health disparities. The Hyde Park academic medical center and other hospitals closed their adult trauma centers decades ago after being overwhelmed with patients who typically are on Medicaid or uninsured.
"I'm really proud of the young black people who brought this whole issue to fruition," said Veronica Morris-Moore, a leader in the campaign for a South Side trauma center. "People who you've been in opposition with for so long . . . just to hear them say the things that we've been saying for so many years sends a multitude of emotions."
Said U of C Medicine President Sharon O'Keefe: “The board's vote today will have a significant impact on our community. Our community needs and deserves equal access to quality health care, and we are now one giant step closer to being able to offer that access at UChicago Medicine.”
Dozens of supporters, including activists, hospital executives and civic groups, rallied around the plan, called GetCare, during the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board meeting in downstate Normal.
The nine-member board, which decides the fate of health care projects to prevent duplicating services, unanimously approved the proposal. U of C Medicine still must get permission from the directors of the other Chicago trauma centers and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
U of C Medicine's GetCare plan is a three-pronged approach to address gaps in care and expand services on its campus. It includes a Level I adult trauma center (the most specialized state designation); relocating and expanding the often-packed adult emergency room; and transforming the aging Mitchell Hospital into a cancer center with nearly 200 more inpatient beds.
The board vote came on the heels of a report from its staff last month that found U of C Medicine's proposal didn't meet certain state guidelines. The number of beds the academic medical center wants to add to its adult ER is too many, the construction tab for the project is too high and the number of extra inpatient beds for overnight stays isn't needed, the staff report said.
The board isn't always swayed by its staff's findings. In this case, data underscore that U of C Medicine, the biggest health system on the South Side, is chronically packed and expects that to continue for years to come.
For example, adult ER patients get so fed up waiting to see a doctor that they often leave before getting treated. Patient beds were 90 percent full in 2015.
In a special report last month, Crain's detailed what triggered U of C Medicine's decision to reopen an adult trauma center after resisting it for years.
Morris-Moore said activists will continue to hold the health system accountable to make sure the center opens.
U of C Medicine said it expects to open the new ER in late 2017 and the trauma program several months later. It already has a pediatric trauma center and a burn and complex wound center. Overhauling Mitchell Hospital will begin later this year.
"State board OKs U of C expansion, trauma center" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.