By LINDSAY WELBERS
Advocates for a trauma care center on the South Side were able to take their concerns to the legislators recently.
State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3) hosted a hearing of the Senate Public Health Committee Subcommittee on Special Issues to discuss the lack of trauma care centers on the South Side of Chicago on Wednesday, Nov. 21.
State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-5), State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31) and State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) also attended the committee, of which Hunter is the chairperson.
“It’s long overdue. It’s totally unacceptable. Too many people are dying. I’ve heard of instances where the person was shot or in a car accident and there was a hospital within a one-mile radius and the ambulance was driving to the other side of the town, the other side of the city, 10, 15 miles way. By the time the person arrived at the hospital they were dead,” Hunter said. “It has occurred too many times. Too many times.”
Dr. Marie Crandell, associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, presented findings that show the longer it takes to travel to a trauma care center, the greater the patient’s risk of death.
“We found that if you were shot more than five miles away from a trauma center in Chicago that your transport times were higher and that you were more likely to die from a gunshot wound,” Crandell said.
The study included 11 years of data and concluded that a patient living more than five miles away from a trauma care center has a 21 percent greater chance of dying.
“I’m reminded that there are trauma centers located in the battlefields. And the purpose of these trauma centers being located on the battlefields is to save lives, and they’ve been successful. So that’s the reason so many of our troops are wounded troops and come home alive,” said Flowers. “Wounded, beaten up, damaged. But they’re still alive. … No one should have to die because of their zip codes.”
Victoria Morris-Moore also spoke in front of the committee. Morris-Moore is a member of Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), an organization that has led in the fight with the University of Chicago for a trauma care center on the South Side.
“The University of Chicago is two minutes away from housing projects on Cottage Grove. So that just speaks to the type of area they’re surrounded [by],” Morris-Moore said. “The city of Chicago needs to put a trauma care center on the South Side and the University of Chicago can be very influential in making this happen.”
Morris-Moore described the gaps in resources in opportunities on the South Side before the committee hearing.
“People are dying in our community, and that’s the reality. The causes of these deaths are usually … directly caused by poverty. There’s school closures, there’s mental health clinic closures, there’s very little jobs that pay minimum wage or better, there aren’t youth centers,” Morris-Moore said. “People on the South Side are doing what they have to do to survive, whether they know it or not, but what they cannot do is treat trauma.”
Dr. Philip Verhoef, who works in the adult and pediatric intensive care units at the University of Chicago Medical Center, spoke at a press conference prior to the hearing.
“We have a wonderful trauma center for pediatric patients so I can see firsthand how much we benefit the community, but the second that you hit your 16th birthday you are no longer allowed to be brought to that trauma center,” said Verhoef, “I think that feels awkward to me. It feels not right. It feels like we’re not providing something for the community that I know we can provide.”
Hunter said the committee would schedule a follow up meeting in January.