Health Dept.: UCMC best hospital for trauma center

UCMC declares no interest in building a new trauma center.

By Katherine Vega

The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) is the area hospital best equipped to maintain an adult Level I trauma center, according to the new Trauma Center Feasibility Study by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Seventeen Illinois hospitals participated, with five of those hospitals operating on the South Side of Chicago.

All hospitals were ranked out of 85 points based on available services, percentage of certified physicians, and other similar criteria. The UCMC scored a 59 using these metrics. The next-highest scorer, Jackson Park Hospital, scored a 47.

The UCMC, which already has a pediatric trauma center, said that it had “0” interest on a scale from 0–10 in developing another trauma center. Jackson Park Hospital, Roseland Community Hospital, and Advocate Trinity Hospital responded with scores of 7 or 8, but none of them met the criteria for being able to operate a Level I trauma center.   

Level I trauma centers differ from Level II and III centers in that they offer the highest level of surgical care for grave situations, according to the study, which was released in early January. Patients in need of a Level I trauma center are often the victims of gunshot or stab wounds or car accidents.

The study used several methodologies to gauge both the feasibility of establishing a new trauma center and the likelihood that such a change would occur. A survey conducted by the IDPH in June 2014 asked area hospitals to outline their services and express their interest levels in creating trauma centers. The survey was then used to create the Feasibility Study.

The Feasibility Study was conducted in hopes of addressing the “trauma desert” problem that plagues the South Side, where there is a high rate of firearms-related homicide and thus a higher need for a Level I trauma center. In this study, a “trauma desert” was defined as an area more than five miles away from a suitable trauma center, although the distance could potentially be much greater.   

According to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health, transport times were directly proportional to distance from a trauma center. The percent of gunshot victims who live more than five miles from a trauma center was 38.3 percent, and they had an overall higher mortality rate than those who live within five miles.

According to its authors, the study was commissioned to address access to trauma care.

“Illinois Department of Public Health recognizes the need to further expand and improve the availability of trauma care to the patients throughout Illinois,” the authors of the study wrote. “IDPH stands ready to support efforts to expand the state trauma system, address desert in South Side Chicago and across the state, work…to meet the health needs of residents in Illinois.”

UCMC spokesperson Lorna Wong released a statement in response to the report confirming the UCMC’s commitment to paying attention to the “evolving needs of our community and patients.”