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University of Chicago's Plan to Add 43 Hospital Beds Quashed by the State

By Sam Cholke | July 17, 2014 8:22am
 Dr. Issam Awad shows off the rooms at the University of Chicago's new Center for Care and Discovery.
Dr. Issam Awad shows off the rooms at the University of Chicago's new Center for Care and Discovery.
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DNAInfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago failed to get state approval Monday for a plan to add 43 hospital beds to the Center for Care and Discovery.

The $123 million plan would have added 12 additional intensive care unit beds and increased the number of observation beds from 15 to 46.

The university also wanted to move 122 surgical beds, 32 intensive care unit beds from the Bernard Mitchell building into the Center for Care and Discovery.

The proposal fell one vote short of passing at a meeting of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which regulates hospital capacity in the state.

Protesters who want trauma center services at the university testified at the hearing in Bolingbrook and claimed credit for the decision.

“Dean Kenneth Polonsky, the head of the university hospital, wants to spend over $120 million to replace perfectly good hospital rooms with luxury suites with private bathrooms and showers, while people who get shot are taken over 10 miles away because the U of C doesn’t care enough to open a trauma center,” organizer Victoria Crider said she told the board.

A university spokeswoman denied that protestors affected the outcome, pointing out that three of the nine members of the board were absent for the vote.

“It is disappointing that anyone would oppose an improvement that directly benefits the people of the South Side,” said Lorna Wong, a spokeswoman for the university said. “The South Side has a shortage of hospital beds, including ICU beds, and the ICU beds will be used for seriously ill patients from the South Side and beyond and help to make sure the community has access to the best medical care and resources available.”

It is not clear the full board would have agreed.

Illinois Department of Public Health staff reports recommended the board vote against the expansion.

According to the report, the proposed 40 private intensive care unit rooms were too large to comply with the state’s standards.

Each room was planned to have a shower and an alcove for nurses to fill out reports out of view of the patient, making the rooms 36 square feet larger than the maximum the state recommends.

The university in its application for the beds said it needed the extra space so it could admit more patients that require isolation, such as cancer and organ transplant patients, which most hospitals do not serve in large numbers.

The report also says the expansion of surgical beds is not necessary because the university isn’t using its existing beds.

The state requires the beds must be occupied a minimum of 88 percent of the time to meet efficiency standards and justify an expansion. In 2013, the university had patients in surgical beds 79 percent of the time, up from 70 percent in 2011.

According to the report’s projections, though demand for surgical beds is rising, the university will not be able to justify needing to expand for another three-and-a-half years.

The university said its own projections showed the surgical beds would be used efficiently within two years of the project’s completion, putting the proposal in line with state requirements.

The university will get a second chance to ask the review board for approval in October and has said it will.

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