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University of Chicago Medicine seeks to expand pediatric trauma care

Under a proposal, Comer Children's Hospital also would treat kids up to 17 years old

For an update to this announcement, please click here.

December 8, 2014

The University of Chicago Medicine is taking formal steps to raise the age limit of its pediatric trauma program by two years to include 16- and 17-year-old children.

Medical center leaders are working with state, county and city officials to increase the age limit of its level 1 pediatric trauma center at Comer Children's Hospital, which has been treating seriously injured children since it opened in 2005. Next steps include submitting paperwork with the state Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and holding meetings with key stakeholders.

"We decided that expanding trauma care to all minor children would help provide an important service to a particularly vulnerable part of our community," said Sharon O'Keefe, president of the University of Chicago Medical Center. "This underscores our commitment to continually meet the needs of children in our South Side community."

O'Keefe said the search for additional physicians and staff who specialize in pediatric trauma care will begin as soon as possible. She expects the pediatric trauma unit will be ready to treat this broader group of patients within a year.

The state historically has defined pediatric patients as age 15 and younger under the Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Center Code, adopted by IDPH. Correspondingly, pediatric trauma centers in Illinois are certified to treat pediatric patients 15 years and younger.

However, a growing number of U.S. hospitals are bringing their emergency pediatric care in line with emerging national standards to treat all injured or sick children under a pediatric model. This summer, the University of Chicago Medicine joined their ranks when it extended the age of patients treated at Comer Children's emergency department to include 16- and 17-year-olds.

The age expansion of its pediatric trauma program is seen as one more way the University of Chicago Medicine is responding to the evolving healthcare landscape and the community's needs.

"Raising the age of trauma care for children is yet another step in our ongoing efforts to address health disparities in our community," said Brenda Battle, vice president of care delivery innovation and chief diversity and inclusion officer. "We are partnering with many community organizations on our South Side to help prevent and treat childhood illness and injury, including those caused by violence."

Battle noted that the medical center has partnered with community-based organizations such as the Bronzeville Dream Center and Cure Violence around the issue of violence prevention and post-trauma support.

"But more needs to be done -- not just around violence prevention, but also to address other healthcare priorities that are hurting our community, including lack of access to care and disproportionate rates of diabetes and cancer," Battle said. "We need a united and collective front made up of the government, community, faith leaders and other health care providers to join us."

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