Young leaders on the South Side are once again pushing for emergency care. A group by the name Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) is calling on the University of Chicago’s Medical Center to operate a trauma center.
The latest movement is a “Tent City” protest situated in front of the medical center, just one year after one of the group's members died from a gunshot wound.
Last night, nearly 50 people gather outside of the hospital in unity, with some sleeping on the hard pavement despite being threatened with arrest by Chicago Police around midnight, according to South Side Together Organizing for Power (STOP) spokesman Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle. FLY is the youth arm of STOP.
FLY co-founder Damian Turner was hit by a stray bullet just three blocks from the U of C hospital on August 15 of last year. The medical center shut down its trauma center for adults years ago, creating an imbalance of care, some argue, on the city's South Side. Due to the resulting "trauma desert", Turner was taken 10 miles away to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died of his injuries, something his family and those in the community say hurt his chances of surviving. This morning, FLY held a vigil for Turner in this continuous fight.
Back in April, FLY leaders held a rally and march after U of C Medical Center president Sharon O'Keefe cancelled a meeting with them to discuss this possibly unnecessary loss of life. At that time, De'Andre Foster, a friend of Turner's told Progress Illinois that the the lack of a South Side trauma center sends a negative message to area residents:
The university system is responding to the criticism and push with a release, saying a trauma center would take away from "other lifesaving services." Citing its facilities as having the South Side's only pediatric trauma center and burn unit, along with the area's largest pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, the release said "Achieving geographic balance in trauma care will require a regional solution that does not come at the expense of these other lifesaving services." Hospital officials also say the facility is the area's primary source of advanced specialty care.
Ginsberg-Jaeckle is already calling the hospital's bluff. He says the services they are leveraging in the statement are actually money makers for the hospital with high reimbursement rates from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance.
"They have a legal and moral responsibility to provide true charity care for the tax break that they get," Ginsberg-Jaeckle said. “It’s so dishonest and manipulative to say it’s a choice between a Level 1 trauma center and those services, without talking about their highest paid administrators and execs, the fact that they receive the most tax breaks on the South Side of Chicago, and their building of a new research center with a $700 million price tag."
Image: University of Chicago Medical Center