UCMC increases age for pediatric emergency care, but not trauma care

UCMC also announces funding for new center to provide post-trauma counseling.

By Sarah Manhardt

The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) announced two new initiatives related to trauma care in the past month. The Comer Children’s Hospital Emergency Department began treating 16- and 17-year-olds, and the hospital pledged a quarter of a million dollars to the Bronzeville Dream Center, which will enlist faith leaders to provide post-trauma counseling and support.

On September 15 the Comer Children’s Hospital Emergency Department began treating children younger than 18 in “part of a long-planned change to bring its pediatric care in line with emerging national standards,” UCMC spokesperson Ashley M. Heher wrote in a statement. UCMC estimates the change will affect approximately 1,500 patients a year. Previously, 16- and 17-year-old children were treated in the Mitchell Hospital Emergency Department.

The change will not affect trauma patients who are 16 and older. The Illinois Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Center Code defines the age of patients taken by ambulance to pediatric trauma centers as birth to 15 and 364 days.

On September 18, Bright Star Community Outreach, a local community organization formed by the Bright Star Church of God in Christ, announced the creation of the Bronzeville Dream Center, designed to be a new approach to ending violence and conflict. The UCMC and Northwestern Medicine each pledged $250,000 for administration the first two years, and United Way Metropolitan Chicago will offer expertise and support. The Center was announced at a press conference with faith leaders and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“Chicago is known to some as the place they might get killed. Now we hope these same people would take the message throughout the world that Chicago is a place they might get healed,” Senior Pastor Chris Harris of the Bright Star Church of God in Christ said at the press conference.

The Bronzeville Dream Center will initially be located in the Bright Star Church of God in Christ, with plans to raise money to build an entirely new facility. It will use a model from the Natal Israel Trauma Center, an apolitical non-profit that helps Israelis deal with trauma from the Arab-Israeli conflict. In Israel, the center gives assistance and treatment to patients, trains professionals, and advances awareness of national psychotrauma. It sent teams to Boston after the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.

A member of Students for Health Equity (SHE) commented that the initiative in some ways reflects the group’s goal of obtaining a Level I adult trauma center at the UCMC.

“While it is not something we have asked for, we do see the Bronzeville Dream Center as a possible step in that direction,” SHE member Joe Kaplan wrote in a statement. “ Polonsky and O’Keefe present this initiative and others like it as alternatives to trauma care, but the sad reality is that these efforts cannot have desired effect if there is no care available for victims of traumatic injuries on the South Side.”

Harris learned of the Natal Israel Trauma Center in a visit to Israel in 2012 that was funded by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. He discussed the idea with Emanuel in a visit to the church last summer and put him in contact with Dean M. Harrison, president and CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare.

“I told the pastor when I was here that you have to respect the difference between a pulpit and a podium. But as long as the pulpit and the podium are headed in the same direction we’re gonna get there a lot faster,” Emanuel said.