April 26, 2013

Letter: UCMC unresponsive

Hospital admins must make good on public discussion promise.

In the aftermath of the January 27 protest at the Center for Care and Discovery, University administrators made several promises. Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum announced two upcoming conversations: a faculty-led dialogue about the incident itself and a discussion hosted by hospital administrators about the University of Chicago Medical Center’s (UCMC) role in South Side health care. At a meeting between members of Students for Health Equity (SHE), Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), and UCMC administrators on April 10, we were told that this second conversation has been postponed indefinitely.

For those who followed the events before and after January 27, this conversation seemed to be long in the making. While describing the UCMC as an eager partner in the mission to improve access to health care on the South Side, its administrators have refused all of FLY’s attempts at communication since 2011. The announcement that hospital administrators would sit down for an honest conversation with students and community members brought the hope of an end to this cycle.

Unfortunately, that hope may have been naive. Though the first promised dialogue did take place on February 28, it underscored the limitations of dialogue as a tool for addressing issues that have immediate and serious consequences for those involved. University administrators, coolly uninterested in communication, declined to send anyone with real decision-making authority to field questions from a room full of frustrated students and faculty members.

Nearly three months after the initial incident, it seems that hospital administrators are also uninterested in real, public communication. Pritzker School of Medicine Dean Kenneth S. Polonsky has appointed representatives to meet with FLY, SHE, and Pritzker students, and to continue a private dialogue about trauma care, but a date for the promised public meeting remains to be set. It seems as though hospital administrators agreed to a public meeting not because they wanted to, but because they felt they had to in the face of the pressure put on them by students, faculty, workers, and community members.

As UCMC administrators seek once again to retreat from public scrutiny, we must demand that they fulfill their obligation to participate in a public meeting. As students, we do not share the same living circumstances as most South Side residents, but, nonetheless, we are all on the receiving end of an unfulfilled promise. Please, join SHE in the coming weeks as we ask Provost Rosenbaum to make good on his word and facilitate a public meeting with the UCMC.

 —Patrick Dexter, class of 2014