By LINDSAY WELBERS
University of Chicago Medicine executive vice president Kenneth Polonsky held a public meeting last week to discuss why the hospital and school are not planning to open an adult trauma care center on campus in the foreseeable future.
Polonsky and Dorianne Miller, the director at the Center for Community Health and Vitality, hosted a one-hour dialogue with the public addressing the trauma care situation on the South Side and the university’s commitmentsto the neighborhood.
“We are at 100 percent capacity,” Polonsky said. “If we were to become a Level 1 trauma care center, it’s not in addition to, it’s instead of.”
Polonsky said the university currently focuses on research and working to progress medicine on complicated diseases. Adding a trauma care center, which would serve adults who need immediate care following injuries like gunshot wounds and traffic accidents, would burden the hospital’s already strained bed capacity.
Miller said through her work at the Center for Community Health and Vitality the university has made a strategic and long-term commitment to the South Side of Chicago. One of those commitments was to help eliminate violence and the need for a trauma care center at all.
“We have researchers at the University of Chicago who say kids who are exposed to violence in our community do not have the capability of engaging productively in Chicago Public Schools as a result of the disarray within their homes, within their communities,” Miller said. “And they want to figure out ways in which we can address this.”
Michael Dye, a Harold Washington College student, spoke on behalf of his friend Kevin Ambrose, who was shot and killed near the 47th Street Green Line Station in May.
Dye was meeting Ambrose at the station, when Ambrose was shot and killed. Ambrose was taken up to John Stroger Hospital, 1900 W. Polk St., a 30- to 45-minute ambulance trip. If he had been admitted to a closer hospital his chances for survival would have improved, Dye said.
“Kevin didn’t want me to walk alone,” Dye said. “It was all normal until I stepped off the train.”
A 26-year-old man named Jerome Brown was later arrested and charged with Ambrose’s murder.
“Once Kevin died we needed to step up and change,” said Zan Adams, another of Ambrose’s friends. “One of our main agendas is getting a trauma center at every hospital.”
Polonsky said the university’s hospital system is overcrowded and providing a trauma care center would replace other types of treatment for low-income South Siders.
“Our record for providing care to the poor and underserved people in our community is second to none among our peers,” Polonsky said. “If a Level 1 trauma center is needed, it will need to be at another hospital. … I would be the first to admit that we cannot address every need of the community. We cannot.”
Gary Merlotti, a trauma surgeon at University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke and encouraged the university to partner with another hospital on the South Side.
“The only place those resources exist is at the U. of C.,” Merlotti said. “This is an easy and simple solution to the problem.”
Polonsky said he had no philosophical objection to the South Side having a trauma care center, or partnering with another hospital, but for logistical and financial reasons he did not expect it to happen in the next two or three years.