Panel argues for trauma care

Several attendees discussed their personal experiences with the UCMC after traumatic episodes, some being admitted and others not.

By Amy Myers

Local groups Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) and Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) hosted a teach-in and panel last Thursday in Harper to discuss how the lack of a trauma center affects South Side residents. Around 50 attendees, composed mostly of community members and some U of C students, attended the event.

The panel brought together local residents, health care experts, and students to discuss the possibility for placing a level-one trauma center on the South Side. The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) closed its trauma center in 1988, due to high operating costs.

“U of C greed, making us bleed,” the activists chanted. Handouts circulated at the event pointed to the $58.6 million in tax breaks given to the UCMC as a non-profit hospital as a means of financing the trauma center.

FLY–member Veronica Morris and fellow panelists acknowledged that the high operating costs would be a major obstacle for opening a trauma center. “We have to prove it’s cost-effective,” Morris said. “It’s worth the money to open up a hospital right down the street.”

“I’m sure a lot of the higher-ups at the U of C are considering the bottom line,” panel member Sheila Rush said. Rush’s son, FLY’s co-founder Damien Turner was shot three blocks from the UCMC last August and died after he was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH).

Rush believes that a trauma center at the UCMC would have saved her son’s life and the lives of others in the community.

To Turner’s friends and fellow protesters, his death underscores why the UCMC must reinstall the level-one trauma center. The trauma center campaign “shines a lot of light on a lot of dark places,” Morris said.

Panelists said they believed the UCMC has the resources to treat level-one trauma victims.

“[The UCMC] can treat you if they really want to,” Rush said, sharing from personal experience. Rush was shot in 1996 and the UCMC treated the wound. Though no trauma center existed at the time, she was driven to the UCMC before an ambulance arrived and was treated in the emergency room.

Hyde Park resident of 45 years and panelist Marcia Rothenburg shared a similar story. Following an automotive accident on East 57th Street and South Dorchester Avenue, Rothenburg and her husband were taken to NMH for treatment.

“I heard [the ambulance workers] calling the University of Chicago, the obvious place to take us.” Rothenburg recalled. “The University of Chicago would not take us.”

“I want to point this out because I want people to understand that it’s not just a question for poor folks, it’s not just a question for the uninsured,” she said. The issue affects everyone in the surrounding community, according to Rothenburg.