By TONIA HILL
Just before the start of the New Year, University of Chicago Medicine will open the doors to its new adult emergency department that will begin treating patients this month and pending approval from the state will offer Level 1 adult trauma care next spring.
“Our commitment to patient care and the community is truly embodied in this emergency department,” said Sharon O’Keefe, president of the U. of C. Medical Center.
U. of C. Medicine, last year, broke ground on the new and expanded emergency department that will also offer a Level 1 adult trauma center.
Level 1 trauma services are expected to become available May 1, 2018, pending review and certification by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Dr. Selwyn Rogers, director of the U. of C. Medicine Trauma Center, said the scope of services provided by the facility would go beyond the walls of the hospital.
“We want to touch lives,” Rogers said adding that the trauma center will work with outreach programs that focus on healing, intervention and holistic recovery, “but most importantly prevention because ultimately the best trauma center is one in which you never need.”
“It [the new adult emergency department] represents a vital step toward meeting the needs of the community,” said Rev. Julian DeShazier, senior pastor of University Church.
U. of C., offered tours of the new $39 million facility that is located at 5656 S. Maryland Ave., on Tuesday, Dec. 5. The expanded emergency department will begin treating patients on Friday, Dec. 29.
The grand opening of the new adult emergency department and forthcoming trauma center is 26 years in the making. South Side residents have been demanding a new trauma center for the area after Michael Reese Hospital was shuttered in 1991.
A trauma center designation means that the hospital has the facilities, staff, services, and equipment necessary to care for patients who suffer injury from car accidents, major burns, serious falls or gunshot wounds.
Advocates on the South Side of Chicago have been lobbying U. of C. to add a Level 1 adult trauma care center to its medical center since 2007. The U. of C. Medical Center is the biggest hospital on the mid-South Side.
Jasamine Harris, who goes by the name “Tweak” was one of many young people on the front lines in the quest to bring a trauma center to the South Side. Harris is a former member of FLY, (Fearless Leading by the Youth). She said excitedly over the phone that it feels surreal that the trauma center is here.
“This victory is wonderful,” Harris said. “None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for the work of young black folks from the Woodlawn community. No one [else] was out there day and night putting their bodies on the line for this fight.”
FLY was one of many groups that made up the Trauma Care Coalition, a coalition of community organizations that demanded a trauma care center on the South Side through protests and demonstrations.
Though she is excited about the trauma center, Harris said the news is also bittersweet.
“Damian Turner, one of the co- founding members of the group [FLY], he’s not here to see that,” Harris said.
Seven years ago, Turner was shot and killed in the 6100 block of Cottage Grove Avenue, three blocks away from U. of C. Medicine.
“I know he is smiling down on us, I know that he is proud,” Harris said.
Community members, students, and activists “drew attention to the need for expanded adult trauma care in this part of the city and we need to acknowledge their efforts as well,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
U. of C. did run a Level 1 trauma care center briefly but closed it in the 1980s, citing budget reasons, according to a previous article in the Herald. It currently operates a pediatric trauma care center that admits patients up to 16 years old at the Comer Children’s Hospital, 5721 S. Maryland Ave.
The Trauma Care Coalition, a group of community organizations, demanded a trauma care center on the South Side through protests and demonstrations.
The new infrastructure will support 25,000 patient visits per year, an increase of 40 percent in the number of patients the hospital can currently treat.
The new facility will be 76 percent larger expanding from 16, 517 square feet to 29,017 gross square feet, as stated in a previous article in the Herald.
Features of the new adult emergency department include resuscitation bays, that will be used to treat stroke and heart attack victims and victims of trauma beginning in May 2018; and the rapid assessment unit where “where expedited procedures allow patients to see an attending physician earlier in the process,” said U. of C. Medicine in a written statement.
“It enhances the ability of our dedicated team to deliver care,” said Dr. Linda Druelinger, medical director of the adult emergency department at U. of C. Medicine.
Other features of the new adult emergency department involve dedicated radiology services and specialized spaces for victims of sexual assault, bariatric patients, patients with mental health needs and patients with highly contagious diseases who need to be quarantined, said U. of C. Medicine.
“The university is very focused on ways in which we leverage our strength our resource in partnership with the community to make positive things happen in our city,” said Derek Douglas, vice president for Civic Engagement and External Affairs at U. of C.
The expanded emergency department and trauma center are part of a three-part $269 million plan that was announced by U. of C. Medicine in February 2016.
The third element of the plan includes the redevelopment of Mitchell Hospital as a cancer care facility. It will allow U. of C. Medicine to add 188 in-patient hospital beds which will accommodate the high demand for “its services and to continue to accept transfers from other hospitals when more specialized or advanced care is needed,” said U. of C. Medicine in a written statement.
The project is expected to be complete in late 2021.
“It is a testament as to how far the relationship between the community and the university has come,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).
Amy Rule, first lady of Chicago; Illinois State Reps. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and Christian Mitchell (D-26) and Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina were among 125 elected officials, community and faith leaders, and U. of C. Medicine staff members that were actively involved in Tuesday’s event. Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) was also in attendance.