By LINDSAY WELBERS
The University of Chicago Medical Center will raise the age of patients who can be admitted to its pediatric trauma care center to include children up to 17 years old.
The trauma center at Comer Children’s Hospital, 5721 S. Maryland Ave., is the only level 1 trauma center on the South Side. Patients who experience traumatic injuries, including gunshot wounds or car accidents, often travel to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, or other distant hospitals, for treatment.
Dr. Stephen Weber, vice president of Clinical Effectiveness and Chief Medical Officer at UCMC, said the change would allow the hospital to treat at least 100 more patients every year.
The hospital still needs to receive approval for the change from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The hospital expects to be able to begin treating older kids within a year.
The state historically defined pediatric patients as 15 years and younger under the Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Center Code the IDPH adopted. Earlier this year Comer expanded its non-emergency hospital care to patients 16 and 17 years old.
South Side advocate groups have been demanding access to the trauma care center for older kids since 2011. They also want the university to bring a level 1 adult trauma care center to the South Side.
Veronica Morris-Moore, a member of Fearless Leading by the Youth, spoke at Tuesday’s press conference to say that their fight is not done.
“We do believe this is a step in the right direction but we definitely do believe that the community needs more,” Morris-Moore said. “The community is also asking for adult trauma care services, so if they’re going to listen to the community they need to be hearing all of it.”
Dr. Philip Verhoef, a pediatric surgeon at Comer and an advocate with the Trauma Care Coalition, said last year the hospital treated about 270 trauma patients. Expanding to include 16 and 17 year olds could bring another 120 through its emergency room doors every year, he said.
“They have the capacity to handle that and [the] university will be working to expand that capacity further and to make sure resources aren’t strained,” Verhoef said.
Weber said that the trauma service needs to expand its equipment and staff to accommodate the added patient load, but that the hospital does not need to add too much to expand its services.
“One of the advantages of approaching it in this matter, of expanding our pediatric trauma services, is the recognition that we already have the base of trauma services in place,” Weber said. “We already have been a level 1 pediatric trauma center for a long time and some of that core expertise and core resources are already in place so building on that is a little bit easier to do than building a new program.”
Two days after announcing their victory trauma center advocates marched to Obama’s Kenwood house, at Greenwood Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard, to deliver a letter to the first couple.
The letter, signed by Victoria Crider and Alexssa Moore — two advocates from Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) and the Trauma Care Coalition (TCC) — asks the president for his help bringing an adult trauma center to the South Side.
“What we are asking of you, president Obama, is that just like you stepped in for Hadiya Pendleton, we need you to step in again for the thousands of black youth that have died and will die with the lack of trauma care,” the letter reads. “We are asking that you President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama consider our plight when you carefully deliberate the placement of your library.”