(CHICAGO) A new state report confirms what protesters have long said: the University of Chicago Medical Center is most equipped to fill the void for a Level 1 trauma center on the South Side, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Yet, the University of Chicago reported having no interest in reopening one.
Three other South Side hospitals reported having some interest in running a Level 1 trauma center for adults — an emergency room that can handle the highest level of trauma care they would see there. But the Illinois Department of Public Health found they lacked the means to do so.
Don’t tell that to the head of Roseland Community Hospital, one of the three hospitals cited.
“Yes, absolutely, 1,000 percent,” Roseland president Tim Egan said when asked if he was interested in creating one. ”I believe that we are ideally located for a Level 1 trauma center . . . because of our geographic location and, especially, between the two major highways.”
Egan said they’re trying to get funding for an analysis to see how feasible that would be. But he also noted the hospital – which came close to closing a few years ago because of finances – would require an endowment of an estimated $100 million a year to maintain a Level 1 trauma center.
The health department report, “Trauma Center Feasibility Study,” highlights the challenges as well as new possibilities.
It’s been almost five years since the death of a teenage boy sparked the call for an adult Level 1 trauma center on the South Side.
It’s been even longer – since 1989 – that South Side residents have had a Level 1 trauma center within 10 miles. The University of Chicago Medical Center, like other hospitals, got out of the business because of the costs.
Levels of an emergency room are based on several requirements such as whether they have subspecialty surgeons, such as neurosurgeons or cardiothoracic doctors. Level 1 centers are best equipped to deal with patients who have been in a car accident or were shot.
A 2009 study estimated the costs of operating a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center can exceed $20 million annually.
The health department stressed the purpose of its report was only to determine which hospitals deserved further consideration. The report, it said, was not intended to determine if the South Side needs an additional trauma center or where that should be. As it is, creating a trauma center is not mandatory for hospitals. And no announcements have been made for new funding sources to sustain one.
Of the nine hospitals surveyed by IDPH, five responded. Only one of those five hospitals – the University of Chicago — was found to be able to support a Level 1 trauma center, based on factors such as their emergency department bed capacity, percentage of certified or eligible physicians and maximum capacity for their intensive care unit. The university, however, told IDPH it had zero interest in creating one.
The health department sent the surveys between May and July.
Even before the report, the University of Chicago had gotten most of the focus. Everyone from university doctors and alumni to South Side protesters have called on it to reopen its Level 1 trauma center. The University of Chicago has since announced plans to raise the age for its Level 1 pediatric trauma center by two years, so it could see patients up to 17 years old. It also announced last week that it was putting the brakes on plans to expand and relocate its adult emergency room because it wanted to do more research. That plan did not mention making it a trauma Level 1 ER.
The University of Chicago Medical Center had no specific comments about the health department report, except it would “review all clinical service areas based on the current and future demands and how best to leverage our resources — facilities, medical/clinical staff, provider networks, financial.” Protesters, meanwhile, continued to hound it.
Three other hospitals came close to meeting the needs required by a Level 1, or more realistically, a Level 2 emergency room. Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center had the next highest feasibility, followed by Advocate Trinity Hospital and Roseland Hospital.
Jackson Park did not respond in time for this story.
Dr. James Doherty, trauma director at Advocate Christ Medical Center, noted that Advocate Trinity, like others on the South Side, is a small, safety-net hospital that would make it difficult to take on that responsibility.
Another possibility mentioned in the health department report was creating a new designation – “Level III” — for hospitals that don’t have the resources to be a top-level trauma center, but have some trauma capabilities. A bill could be introduced this spring in the General Assembly, the department said.
Doherty said that might help people in central and southern Illinois, which have worse “trauma deserts.” But he questioned how much that would help South Side residents, when many of their trauma victims have penetrating wounds from a gunshot. He noted those type of wounds require top-level care.
He said the bottom line is that “every life is important.”
But the challenge is “if you’re going to take on the mantle of being a trauma center, you’re going to be taking on the financial burden. . . . That’s really where it comes down to the tough decisions that hospitals have to make.”
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