CHICAGO — For five years, activists have pushed University of Chicago Medical Center to build a trauma center for the South Side, but they're not completely happy with the one they're getting.
UChicago Medicine announced on Thursday that they would pair with Sinai Health System to build a center at Holy Cross Hospital at 2701 W. 68th Street. Activists said Friday the proposed location is too far from communities in need, and that they will continue to fight to raise the age limit to 21 at Comer Children's Hospital pediatric trauma center in Hyde Park.
UChicago Medicine officials said that they will work to incorporate more community input in the future, saying that the announcement was just the first step.
Veronica Morris Moore, a spokeswoman for the group and an organizer with Fearless Leading by the Youth, said during a news conference that it took her 30 minutes to reach the proposed site of the trauma center from her home in South Shore. Morris Moore was one of nine activists arrested during a protest at the university in June.
"Our communities need more from these institutions that have been ignoring us and avoiding us for all this time," Morris Moore said.
Other speakers expressed frustration that UChicago Medical hadn't told them about the coming trauma center despite having sit-down meetings with officials in the months prior to the announcement, in which officials promised to solicit community input. Speaker Sheila Rush said she learned of the proposal on Facebook.
Rush is the mother of community organizer Damian Turner, whose shooting death has been cited by activists as an example of why the center is needed: Turner was shot closer to UChicago Medical, but he was taken to Northwestern Medical Center in Streeterville and died before arriving.
UChicago Medical "reached out to community and elected leaders just before going public," according to a statement provided by spokeswoman Lorna Wong. The organization said it plans to build its relationship with community members.
"But the announcement is just the beginning of our process to engage community as we build the adult Level 1 trauma center and expand emergency services over the next two years," according to the statement.
Student Anna Nathanson said during the news conference that the announcement of the center was a "bittersweet moment" because it will save lives, but the proposal also has "deeply disturbing racist elements.
"Why did they choose to put their money into building a trauma center at another hospital when they have this amazing facility right here?" Nathanson said. "... Their motivations behind sending their money to a different facility are sending these patients to a different facility."
UChicago Medical denied that the center's proposed location was racist, saying "nothing could be further from the truth" in the statement.
"This new trauma center would provide care where it is needed most," the statement said. "Because of its location at Holy Cross Hospital and the expert resources from both institutions, the Level 1 adult trauma center will be able to serve multiple communities on the South and Southwest Sides where the need is great.
"UChicago Medicine is also investing in increasing access to adult emergency services by building a new state-of-the-art emergency department on our campus."
The activists said they will continue to fight to be heard.
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