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Doctors gathered outside of the University of Chicago Medical Center to bring attention to the need for an adult Level 1 trauma center on the South Side. “There is no other South Side institution that has the power, the resources, the vested interest, and the brains to tackle this,” said Dr. Philip Verhoef.

Doctors, activists call for Level 1 adult trauma center on South Side

by Vanessa Beene
May 22, 2014

Doctors from the University of Chicago Medical Center and other Chicago-area hospitals gathered Thursday along with local youth activists to make a call to action in the form of a prescription: “Trauma Center Now.”

“The [University of Chicago] has a responsibility to not only be a part of the solution to the lack of trauma care but to lead the cause,” said Veronica Morris-Moore, member of Fearless Leading by the Youth, or F.L.Y.,  and lead organizer for the event.

F.L.Y., a division of South Side Together Organizing for Power, commonly known as STOP, created “May Mayhem,” a week of action for a trauma center including a rally, a sit-in, and a nurse-led bus tour of the South Side. Its goal is to bring attention to what activists and doctors alike see as a dire need for an adult Level 1 trauma center in an area that is severely under-served.

“There was a shooting on my block this week. An 18-year-old boy…too old to come to Comer so he was transported to Northwestern,” said Dr. Evan Lyon, physician at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “The paper listed him in critical condition and the main issue to his living or dying was probably the traffic on Lake Shore Drive. That is not just.”

Lyon added that both the community and the university stand to lose by not offering trauma care.

“To learn the skills and to practice on trauma, our surgeons go somewhere else and we are an institution that prides itself on world-class teaching,” Lyon said. “We could do a better job as teachers if we have everything happening here on campus.”

Dr. Gary Merlotti, a trauma director at Mt. Sinai Hospital, said: “We all know that on the South Side, there is only one hospital that has the resources available. We need the University of Chicago to step up.”

Merlotti helped set up Chicago’s trauma network in the mid 1980s and said that an area once served by three trauma centers -- University of Chicago Medical Center, Advocate Christ Medical Center, and Michael Reese Hospital -- has now left one, Advocate Christ in Oak Lawn, Ill., to shoulder the responsibility of the nearly 7,500 south side trauma patients practically on their own.

“It has been an admirable effort on their part, but because of the sheer volume of patients, they are frequently overwhelmed,” Merlotti said.

In a statement Thursday, the university said: “Developing a Level 1 adult trauma center would compromise the medical center's ability to support these critical services. It would be a massive undertaking, requiring significant resources and support, as well as a complex decision-making process involving the city and state.”

The university has not had a Level 1 adult trauma center since 1988.