HYDE PARK — Two major health care providers are joining forces to open a $40-million Level 1 adult trauma center on the South Side, according to a news release Thursday.
The new facility at Holy Cross Hospital, 2701 W. 68th St., in Marquette Park, which comes after years of protests demanding better health care for victims of gun violence and other traumatic injuries on the South Side, will become one of five Level 1 adult trauma centers in Chicago and the only one on the South Side.
The project was announced in a joint news release from University of Chicago Medicine and Sinai Health System, which are teaming up to fund and staff the facility. UChicago Medicine will fund the renovation and expansion of Holy Cross Hospital's emergency department, which is expected to cost $40 million, and Sinai Health System will provide the personnel needed for the upgrades.
Sinai Health System runs Mount Sinai Hospital in North Lawndale (which has provided an adult trauma center for more than 25 years) in addition to Holy Cross Hospital, according to the statement.
"Bringing the expertise and resources of the University of Chicago Medicine and Sinai Health System together, we can do exponentially more for all the communities on the South and Southwest sides of the city," said Sinai Health System president and CEO Karen Teitelbaum in the statement.
UChicago Medicine runs "high-volume" emergency departments and has a Level 1 pediatric trauma unit at Comer Children's Hospital, the news release said. The university has been pressured by activists for years to expand its services to include an adult trauma center, but the university has maintained that it would be cost prohibitive and that a South Side trauma center should be a joint project of the community.
"This collaborative partnership, a model for other care providers, leverages our collective experience and resources to expand access to life-saving, quality health care for the communities we serve," said University of Chicago Medical Center president Sharon O'Keefe, according to the news release.
UChicago also announced it would expand and build a "state-of-the-art adult emergency department" on its Hyde Park campus.
Activists with the Trauma Center Coalition, which has been organizing protests since 2010, said that they view the announcement as a victory, though they are unhappy with the process at which the decision was reached.
"It is a victory because of the work that young black people and their allies have been doing," said Veronica Morris-Moore, a spokeswoman for the group and an organizer with Fearless Leading by the Youth. "But it's still not enough, in terms of the U. of C. showing that black lives actually do matter to their institution."
"It's basically saying, we're willing to spend $40 million to keep young black people off campus," she continued, adding that the university did not include the activists in discussions about the newly announced trauma center despite having several meetings with activists after their most recent protest in June.
Nine protesters, including Morris-Moore, were arrested at U. of C. in June after barricading themselves inside a university building in order to draw attention to their cause and ask for a meeting with university officials. Seventy protesters shut down Michigan Avenue in March in a similar protest. The protests have occurred intermitently since 2010.
Morris-Moore said Thursday night that the activists were "blind-sided" by the announcement, despite speaking with university officials about a month ago. She said the coalition would continue to press for the University of Chicago to expand its Comer Children's Hospital pediatric trauma care to treat patients up to 21 years old, and to ensure they follow through with their promise last year to raise the age to 17.
"The nature in which the university makes decisions that directly affect people who don't live on campus and live on the greater South Side is racial and prejudicial," said Morris-Moore, 23, who lives in South Shore. "It leaves a horrible taste in my mouth, and my feelings translate into how the community feels in terms of engaging with the University of Chicago."
University officials declined to comment additionally Thursday night.
In 2013, state legislators threw their weight behind the protests, which had been ongoing for three years at that time.
At the time, Dr. Marie Crandall, a researcher and trauma surgeon at Northwestern, told a legislative committee that she had studied 11 years of patient data and determined that the risk of dying is 21 percent higher for victims of gunshot wounds that live more than five miles from a trauma center.
Crandall said her research shows a quarter of residents on the South Side face a 30-minute-plus ride in an ambulance to a trauma center, which results in an estimated seven or eight people dying from gunshot wounds on the South Side each year because they are too far from a trauma center.
The approval process and construction are expected to take at least two years, according to the statement, during which time both organizations will recruit the skilled staff needed for the facilities. The two health care groups plan to hold meetings with community leaders to develop programs surrounding wellness and prevention.
"This new Level 1 adult trauma center is a true community and civic effort," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel according to the news release. "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."
Below, see map of shootings around Marquette Park since 2010:
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