State Report Finds Issue With Parts of UCMC Expansion Plan

UCMC does not anticipate that the findings will prevent the project, which includes a plan to build a level-1 trauma center, from going forward.

By Alex Ward

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On Tuesday, the state of Illinois released a report criticizing parts of the University of Chicago Medical Center’s (UCMC) recently proposed expansion plan, which includes the long-contested trauma center. UCMC does not anticipate that the findings will prevent the project from going forward.

The report takes issue with the number of new beds and radiology stations the UCMC plans to install, as well as the expected cost per square foot of the renovations.

The University’s Get CARE (Community, Access, Reliability, Excellence) proposal, made to the state board on February 16, has three main aspects: 168 additional medical-surgical beds, 20 additional intensive care beds, and the construction of a Level I Adult Trauma Center. The trauma center in particular has been a target of community and student activism. According to UCMC predictions, it is expected to see 2,700 visits annually.

In its response to the state report, the UCMC noted that while the review board’s usage figures are based on past data, their own plan takes into account predicted future growth. Specifically, the UCMC notes that since 2009 it has seen average annual increases in visits to its medicine and emergency care departments of 6.7 and 6.5 percent, respectively.

The state report, released by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board (IHFSRB), does not necessarily mean the end of the project. On May 10, the proposal will go before the state hospital board, and while the IHFSRB report will be taken into consideration, the project may still be approved. The Get CARE proposal met 16 of the 19 criteria in the report, and according to the UCMC’s response, “Each of [the negative] findings was anticipated in the original application and none preclude the Board from approving the project.”

The proposed trauma center will require separate approval from the Illinois Department of Public Health in order to be granted the desired Level I status, the highest possible designation. According to the American Trauma Society website: “A Level I Trauma Center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury—from prevention through rehabilitation.”

In a statement about the report, Sharon O’Keefe, president of the UCMC, said, “We appreciated the staff’s time reviewing our extensive proposal and were pleased that the staff made positive findings on 16 of the 19 review criterion on the State Board Report. We are encouraged to be one step closer to delivering the care our community wants and needs, and remain confident the Board will see the merits of our proposal to increase access to care on Chicago’s South Side.”