University of Chicago Debating Emergency Room in Parking Garage

By Sam Cholke on September 24, 2013 9:24am 

 The University of Chicago is considering building a new emergency room on the first floor of a parking garage now under construction.
The University of Chicago is considering building a new emergency room on the first floor of a parking garage now under construction.
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University of Chicago Medicine

HYDE PARK — University of Chicago Medicine is considering building a new emergency room, possibly on the ground floor of a planned parking garage, according to Kenneth Polonsky, dean of the medical school.

“It’s certainly a strong consideration,” Polonsky said after an unveiling of designs for the parking garage at the Center for Care and Discovery.

According to Polonsky, the plans have not been brought to the hospital’s board of trustees or the Illinois Department of Public Health, which would both need to sign off on the expansion of emergency care.

He said a number of uses are being considered for the first-floor medical space under construction as a component of an 1,800-space parking garage for the new Center for Care and Discovery.

The hospital opened in February without an emergency room, which prompted speculation about when the university would expand emergency room services.

The emergency room serves about 75,000 patients a year, the majority from the South Side, according to Polonsky.

Polonsky made his comments after a presentation by hospital leaders on minority- and women-owned business participation in campus construction projects.

More than $16 million in contracts to build the new parking garage, more than half of the work, has gone to minority- and women-owned businesses, according to Daryl Wilkerson, vice president of support services at the U. of C. Medicine.

According to Wilkerson, the parking garage project is doing better than the university hospital’s average of 45 percent of contracts going to women- and minority-owned businesses.

“I wish the city had these kinds of numbers,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), adding that she was involved when then-4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) first pushed the university to include more women and minorities.  Hairston said she trusted the university’s reported numbers.

Wilkerson said the hospital has awarded more than $400 million in contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.

“You won’t find that anywhere else in Chicago, and you won’t find it at any other other academic medical campus,” Wilkerson said.

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