By Patrice Nkrumah, Chicago Crusader
After years of complaints and protests against them, the University of Chicago Medical Center broke ground for construction of a new adult Level 1 trauma center on the corner of 57th & Maryland on Sept. 15.
The new center will cost $37 million and is part of a $269 million expansion of the hospital in general. It will feature 41 treatment stations; four trauma resuscitation bays; seven rapid assessment units; four psychiatric rooms; one bariatric room; dedicated imaging stations; and on-site biocontainment within the 29,017-foot facility. Patients also will have more privacy, with separate rooms as opposed to curtained cubicles.
“We’ve redesigned the whole flow within the emergency department to be faster, so we can get to sick patients quicker,” said Tom Spiegel, director of the emergency department.
The new expanded emergency department is projected to treat an additional 25,000 patient visits a year by 2021 according to the university. More than 2,000 adult trauma patients are expected in the first full year of trauma center designation. Work is expected to be completed on the building in January 2018, and the facility will be fully operational in July 2018, a university spokesperson said.
Much of the credit for getting the university to concede to the demands is given to Black youth from the South Side, who, for five years participated in sit-ins, vigils, protest marches, and other forms of demonstrations to keep the issue in the public’s psyche. Their action was spearheaded by the murder of Damian Turner, co-founder of the group Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), in 2010.
Over time, FLY coordinated with other groups to form the Trauma Care Coalition, a community-led coalition, which includes: Southside Together Organizing for Power; Kenwood Oakland Community Organization; Interfaith Leadership Council; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; National Nurses United, and Students for Health Equity. The coalition released a statement regarding the decision by the U of C to build the new trauma center.
“The decision by President Robert Zimmer and Dean Kenneth Polonksy of the University of Chicago to listen to the community and concede to the demand to open a Level I adult trauma center and save Black lives shows that young Black people can absolutely impact policy and influence political change for the betterment of the Black community,” the statement read in part. “To see the way that young Black people have been able to move things from the fight for police torture reparations, to the Dyett hunger strike, to the fight against CPD police brutality, to be a part of this has been an amazing thing. This is something you don’t expect to see in a lifetime.”
The youth who fought to get the trauma center did not attend last week’s press conference, and shared with the Crusader that they were not invited and would not have attended anyway because they said many of the politicians and university representatives who were present were the same ones who were fighting against them, including the university’s police department, which often arrested protesters.
Instead, the coalition is planning on keeping an eye on the development through the construction phase and when it opens, ensuring people from the community get their fair share of the 1,000 jobs the project is expected to generate.