Officials defend lack of trauma center, tout UCMC’s offerings

A discussion organized by U of C Medical School students allowed hospital officials to discuss recent criticism of the UCMC.

By Sherry Cao

Health professionals from the University of Chicago Hospitals convened on Tuesday at the BSLC to discuss the state of emergency rooms at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) during the Urban Health Initiative and the hotly debated absence of a trauma center.

Carolyn Wilson, chief operating officer of the University of Chicago Hospitals, and Dr. Linda Druelinger, co-chief of the Section of Emergency Medicine, spoke about UCMC emergency room policies during the discussion, which the American Medical Students Association (AMSA) and the Emergency Medicine Interest Group (EMIG) partnered to present.

The discussion was a response to recent protests and debates within the local community over the lack of a level-one trauma centers on the South Side. Activist groups like Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) have staged die-ins and mock funerals on campus.

UCMC spokesperson John Easton defended the hospital’s 1988 decision to close its level-one adult trauma center in an e-mail. As an academic medical center, Easton wrote, the UCMC has to focus not only on providing clinical care for the community, but also on educating medical students and conducting research.

“Trauma care is only one of many urgent needs, and it cannot be addressed in isolation, at the expense of other life-saving services; it is also a regional issue, and cannot be solved by one institution in an area that has watched many of its key hospitals close in recent decades,” Easton wrote.

First-year medical student Emily Lu, one of the event’s organizers, began plans for the discussion after she attended a required class on health policy.

Lu, who is the community health chair of the U of C chapter of the AMSA, described the event as a town hall–style discussion, with audience members and guest speakers participating.

“It was really nice to hear about the issue from the leaders of the hospitals themselves,” Lu said. “None of us really went into the meeting with a negative attitude , we just wanted to learn the whole story, and have the information to develop our own opinions.”

First-year Medical student Hannah Snyder felt the talk allowed students to understand the UCMC administration’s stance. “I hate ‘The Man’ a little less now,” she said.

As part of the talk, the speakers claimed that there is no legal need for a trauma center. A Trauma Center Facts Sheet, provided by Easton, reads: “Illinois has the best access to trauma care of any Midwestern state and Chicago has more level-one trauma centers than any other region of Illinois—four for adults and four for children.”

Lu said that “it’s pretty important to realize all that’s going on with the balancing act of a hospital—there are trade-offs and different goals; it’s not just about the trauma center.”