More than 50 faith leaders and Chicago activists sang and prayed for a South Side adult trauma center at a rally late Thursday afternoon at the University of Chicago medical campus. Progress Illinois was there for the demonstration.
More than 50 faith leaders and Chicago activists sang and prayed for a South Side adult trauma center late Thursday afternoon at a rally at the University of Chicago medical campus.
At the event, held outside the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, members of religious groups and the Trauma Center Coalition also requested a meeting with University of Chicago Medical Center officials to discuss the South Side's need for expanded emergency health services.
Chicago's South Side, hard-hit by gun violence, currently lacks a Level 1 adult trauma center, which forces people with serious injuries to travel miles away to a hospital on the city's North or West Sides or the suburbs to seek medical care.
Thursday's demonstration comes after University of Chicago Medical Center President Sharon O'Keefe recently told a state review panel that the health system is in talks with other local medical facilities "to both collaborate and look at what is the best possible way to organize trauma … care in Chicago to best meet the needs of the area." O'Keefe reportedly made those remarks at the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board's meeting last month.
"Hospital CEO Sharon O'Keefe recently indicated her interest in a regional solution to the trauma desert on the South Side," Darrius Lightfoot, with the Trauma Center Coalition and Fearless Leading by the Youth, said at the protest. "We ask Sharon O'Keefe and Medical Center Dean Kenneth Polonsky to sit down and meet with faith leaders, so that we can all work towards the solution that our communities so desperately need."
Back in 1986, the University of Chicago Medical Center opened a Level 1 adult trauma center, but closed it in 1988 for financial reasons. The university runs a trauma center for children at Comer Children’s Hospital, but it only accepts patients who are 15-years-old or younger.
"We struggle against a tide of violence," added Lightfoot. "But of our region's nine trauma centers, eight are north of the Loop. This disparity has real effects. If you are shot in an underserved neighborhood, you are 23 percent more likely to die. It cries out for justice. And today, it sings out too."
Woodlawn resident Ella Smith said her grandson's life might have been saved if there was a Level 1 adult trauma center on the South Side. Her grandson, Terrell Dobbs, 22, was shot in 2008 near the corner of 64th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, a few minutes from the University of Chicago medical campus.
"They took him to Northwestern [Memorial Hospital], and he died before he got there," Smith said. "He literally bled to death, and he was blocks from this hospital ... Terell's life could have been saved had he been taken right here."
Click through to hear more from Smith and see scenes from the protest.
Cantor Vicky Glikin, with the Reform Cantors of Chicago, and other Jewish clergy were among the religious leaders standing in support for a South Side Level 1 adult trauma center.
"We feel that this is an issue of life and death," she told Progress Illinois. "If there's something that can be said about Judaism, it's the fact that it values life above everything else. And the fact that there are lives that are being lost unnecessarily, or there are lives that are being lost which could be saved, sends a strong message that we need to speak out for — the message being the preservation of life."
University of Chicago officials, meanwhile, have previously said that "developing a Level 1 adult trauma center at UCM would be a massive undertaking requiring significant hospital and state approvals, resources and funding."
Glikin acknowledged that reality, but said it is "easy to use money as a reason not to do something."
"My understanding is that the university receives $58 million in tax breaks from the state and the federal government, and they are benefiting from being a part of this neighborhood, and they are receiving resources from the government," she noted. "I think that it's only fair for them to share with the rest of the neighborhood."
However, not all the responsibility for creating a Level 1 adult trauma center on the South Side should be "placed onto the University of Chicago's shoulders," Glikin said.
"In other words, this is one of the organizations that we're working with, and the hope is that there are other places that step up as well," she continued. "However, the University of Chicago does stand in a really good position as a hospital with really high-level expertise to step up and prevent some of the losses of life that are taking place."
Earlier in the day, the University of Chicago was part of an announcement involving a new South Side counseling center to address effects of violence.
Bright Star Community Outreach, a Bronzeville-based organization, launched its new Bronzeville Dream Center, which will use a "novel community health model" to "combat violence and avert behaviors that may lead to conflict by using faith leaders to provide post-trauma counseling and other support," according to an announcement.
The Bronzeville Dream Center's partners include the University of Chicago Medicine, Communities That Care, Northwestern Medicine, the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and NATAL—Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War.
Brenda Battle, vice president for care delivery innovation at the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences and its chief diversity officer for diversity and inclusion, issued the following statement to Progress Illinois in response to Thursday's trauma center protest, making mention of the new counseling center:
We must collectively do more to tackle the essential issue of violence prevention. That’s why we partnered with Northwestern Medicine and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago to support Bright Star Community Outreach’s Bronzeville Dream Center, an innovative model to combat violence. We believe this provides a grassroots solution to address violence prevention and post-traumatic stress. The goal is to break the cycle of violence.
We continually have discussions with other area health care providers about ways to improve the health of the South Side. Among the topics that have come up recently include the trauma care issue. As we typically do around our efforts to address community health needs, we will share any developments as they unfold.
Rev. Alice Harper Jones, associate pastor at Kenwood United Church of Christ, said faith leaders will continue to push for a Level 1 adult trauma center on the South Side.
"We realize that our people need to have the services that the trauma center can provide," she said. "I see it, as a pastor, as an immoral injustice to humankind to deny people the right to have health care, and by them not allowing those who are victims of trauma to be treated because of that. We are committed to stay here until something is done."
Click through for Progress Illinois' previous coverage of the fight for a South Side adult trauma center.