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South Side Gunshot Victims Won't Have To Travel 10 Miles For Help Soon

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Sep 11, 2015 3:06AM

via the University of Chicago

For the first time in over 15 years, the South Side is slated to have an adult trauma center to help victims of gun violence and other emergency traumas in a few years.

After facing years of protests from Chicagoans anxious to see an adult trauma center built on the South Side, University of Chicago Medicine and the local nonprofit Sinai Health System are partnering to create a new trauma center at 68th Street and California Avenue. Protesters have targeted the University of Chicago with several actions throughout at least the past five years to try to convince administrators to create an adult trauma center at the university's Hyde Park medical center.

A handful of protesters pushing the University of Chicago to build a trauma center were arrested last June after locking themselves inside an administration building. And protesters were also arrested on Michigan Avenue in a similar move earlier this year to raise awareness about the lack of a South Side trauma center, which could help save lives by reducing the time and distance ambulances must carry patients in need of emergency care.

The South Side has not had an adult trauma center since Bronzeville's former Michael Reese Hospital closed its center in 1991. Many victims of gun violence have had to travel ten miles or more by ambulance to reach the nearest trauma center as a result, according to the Tribune.

Protesters, via the Trauma Center Coalition

The new trauma center will be built in a renovated and expanded emergency department at Holy Cross Hospital, less than three miles from some of the city's most high-violent crime areas. The costs are estimated at $40 million, the university announced in a press release Thursday evening. The university will provide some funding for the center, and both the university and Sinai Health System, which runs a trauma center at Mount Sinai Hospital on the West Side, will provide physicians, specialists, surgeons and other trauma care support services. The university will also expand some emergency services at its Hyde Park campus by building a $35 million "state-of-the-art" emergency room, the press release says.

“I commend the University of Chicago, Sinai Health System, and Holy Cross Hospital for working collaboratively to meet an important need on the South Side," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

“We are bringing together the best to do the most,” Sinai Health System President and CEO Karen Teitelbaum said in a statement. “Since Holy Cross became part of our health care network in 2013, we have been seeking ways to expand its reach, especially when it comes to acute care and violence prevention. Bringing the expertise and resources of the University of Chicago Medicine and Sinai Health System together, we can do exponentially more for all of the communities on the South and Southwest sides of the city.”

The next step for the trauma center will be a two-year approval process with the state of Illinois, along with staff trainings and plans to meet with community leaders, officials said in the release.

Updated Sept. 11 at 8:40 a.m.: The Trauma Care Coalition, a group of activists that have been pushing for the University of Chicago in particular to open a trauma center, said this new move is not enough in a statement on the announcement released Thursday night:

"The U of C hasn't done enough to show that Black Lives Matter," the statement reads. "There are still large swaths of the South Side that will not be adequately served by the new trauma center. South Shore, East Woodlawn, Kenwood, and other South Side neighborhoods with higher gun violence rates are still more than five miles away from an adult trauma center. The decision to not place the trauma center on campus says to the immediate surrounding neighborhoods that we are not welcomed."

South Side community leaders told the Tribune they are pleased with the announcement—especially after spending years criticizing the university for not opening a trauma center at its Hyde Park campus:

The Rev. Julian DeShazier, who has been an outspoken critic of the U. of C.'s lack of a trauma center, said the decision to build a new trauma center is an "affirming statement" for the South Side.

"Whether you need to use it or not, the mere fact that it exists there in your community is a sign that your community is like any other taken seriously in the city of Chicago, and that your people are taken as seriously as anyone else. If you need trauma care now, it's close to you," he said.

"It closes more than the gap between access to trauma care. It also closes this apparent notion that the city doesn't care about us or that the university doesn't care about us. It's a humanizing kind of thing to be able to have what you know folks on the North Side have."

The Rev. Janette Wilson, senior adviser for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said collaboration such as this is a "great step forward" on the South Side, where residents have seen so much violence.