The ongoing fight for a Level 1 adult trauma center on Chicago's South Side continued last night when students at the University of Chicago called on the candidates running in the 2nd congressional district to support their efforts for social justice in the area.
Currently, there are no Level 1 adult trauma centers on the city’s South Side. And that forces seriously injured people to travel miles away to other parts of the city to seek medical care, students at the teach-in and community meeting said.
“There’s a need now in the South Side of Chicago and in the south suburbs to have trauma care and have emergency care, and that need is not being met,” said Valerie Michelman with the university’s Students for Health Equity group.
Students also demanded that the age limit for those accepted at the University of Chicago Medicine’s child trauma center at Comer Children’s Hospital be raised from 15 to 21.
“This issue isn’t just affecting children,” said Veronica Morris-Moore with Fearless Leading by the Youth. “It’s not just about teenagers. It’s not just about youth. It’s about everyone sitting in this room.”
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) was the only candidate to join the discussion held at the university’s Kent Hall, but others vying for the 2nd congressional seat were invited, students said.
Beale stood with the students and said there’s an imbalance and inequity of resources in the community.
The South Side experiences shootings and other forms of violence regularly, and “you have to go so far to get the basic care,” Beale told the few hundred people in the audience.
“That’s an injustice,” the alderman added.
The meeting came on the heels of a January 28 sit-in at the University of Chicago’s new hospital building that left four out of about 50 participants arrested. Some protesters said the University of Chicago’s police forcefully handled them.
Advocates for a South Side trauma center said the university hospital has an obligation to its community to improve access to emergency health services.
The University of Chicago’s adult trauma center opened in 1986, but closed in 1988.
“The University of Chicago has abandoned responsibility for providing for the needs of its community,” said Anne Scheetz, a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, who also joined forces with the students.
“The purpose of a health care system is to make its community better. If it doesn’t do that, it has no reason to exist.”
The campaign for a Level 1 trauma center started in 2010 after 18-year-old student Damien Turner was shot near the corner of 51st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, just a few blocks away from the University of Chicago Hospital. Turner was brought to Northwestern Memorial Hospital near the Loop due to the lack of a nearby Level 1 trauma center, but he died an hour-and-a-half later.
Scheetz said the community needs local and state governments and all health care institutions “to address the terrible health inequities that shame this city.”
“This is a world-class university, and this is supposed to be a world-class city,” she added. “This is not too much to ask or too much to expect.”
The students said they have yet to meet with the president of the University of Chicago’s Medical Center or any school administrators to discuss a possible trauma center.
They said they would push their peers and school alums to call administrators this week, urging that they meet with students for a discussion and drop the charges against the four arrested protesters.