Trauma Documents

The Latest Statement on Trauma Care on the South Side

June 6, 2014

The University of Chicago Medicine's ongoing commitment to the community is strong, intentional and comprehensive. It is a leader among the region's large academic medical centers in the way it partners with the community to meet prevalent health care needs and to seek solutions to health disparities, as well as providing the South Side of Chicago with access to the best care possible and to contributing to the economic vitality of the region.

We do this by not only offering the area's primary source of complex specialty care in areas such as cancer and gastrointestinal diseases, but also by providing distinctive services critical to the community. That includes the South Side's only burn unit, the South Side's only trauma unit for children, a neonatal intensive care unit that each year serves nearly 1,000 infants from the South Side, and a comprehensive emergency department for adults and children.

To focus on the heavy demands of adult trauma care, the medical center would have to build services and teams from the ground up. This would take away resources from the aforementioned lifesaving services, all of which are heavily subsidized by the Medical Center.

But financial and staff resources, which would be substantial, are not the only factors in the decision to build a trauma center. Trauma centers are designated based on a regional solution that must be made in concert with the city, state and other health care providers. Achieving geographic balance in trauma care will require a regional strategy that does not come at the expense of the Medical Center's distinctive, lifesaving services.

Patient Care for the Community

The medical center has a direct impact on providing patient care to the community, including providing one of the highest rates of uncompensated medical care in the state. In addition, 46 percent of our patients are black, many of whom come from the South Side of Chicago. Other facts:

  • Our adult and pediatric emergency rooms are among the busiest in Chicago, with almost 47,000 adult visits and nearly 30,000 pediatric visits in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.
  • We get more than 900 critically injured transferred patients a year from community hospitals.
  • Our Comer Children's Hospital's trauma center cared for 260 seriously injured children last year.
  • In the last fiscal year, our burn unit treated about 300 patients; a third came from the South Side.
  • We deliver 1,500 newborns a year, about 1,000 of whom are from the South Side.
  • About 50 percent of our pediatric intensive care patients come from neighboring communities.
  • Outreach programs provide free basic care and screenings on the South Side. One example, our pediatric mobile unit visited 25 schools -- mostly on the South Side -- to offer free immunizations in fiscal year 2013.

Community Health and Violence Prevention

The South Side of Chicago faces a complicated set of health care challenges, including the closing of seven hospitals and loss of 50 percent of all hospital beds in the region since 1988. Thus, determining the needs of the community is vital when developing strategies to address them.

Our Community Health Needs Assessment and strategic plan are focused on our surrounding community that is 74 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic or Latino. This assessment identified diabetes, cancer prevention, access to primary care, as well as childhood obesity and asthma, as among the top health issues in the South Side. The medical center is a national leader in these fields and is actively engaged in providing services to address these concerns, which affect hundreds of thousands of South Side residents.  (To read the Community Health Needs Assessment, visit uchospitals.edu/about/community-benefits.)

Violence (which includes domestic, sexual and gun violence) also was identified as a community concern, confirming much of our work around the essential issue of violence prevention.

We have partnered with Cure Violence to go into neighborhoods to defuse disputes and with the state to train nurses to become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. Also, in an effort to address the links between gun violence and teen depression, our Urban Health Initiative formed a unique collaboration with eta Creative Arts Foundation to feature a physician-written play, "It Shoudda Been Me," to communicate the effects of neighborhood violence on youth.

Economic Impact and Community Benefit

The medical campus also strengthens the community through its economic impact, providing jobs and other opportunities for neighbors. Capital spending to modernize and build facilities generates millions of dollars for the local economy and ensures that the medical center stays competitive and will be around for generations to come.

We are the largest employer on the South Side of Chicago, and our medical center workforce is diverse: 38 percent is black and 7 percent identify themselves as Hispanic. 

When we planned to build our Center for Care and Discovery, we set up systems that delivered measurable results: 48 percent of the contracts open for bid were awarded to minority- and women-owned firms for $209.3 million, 42 percent of the workers were minorities or women, and 25 percent of all workers were from the South Side of Chicago. The economic impact of the hospital project totaled $571.5 million.

Our commitment to the community goes beyond brick and mortar. It involves subsidizing and supporting charity care, the next generation of physicians, medical research, losses tied to Medicaid and Medicare, unrecoverable patient debt, donations to community groups, interpreters and volunteer work. Altogether, the medical center and the Biological Sciences Division provided $254.1 million in benefits and services to the community in fiscal 2012. (To read our Community Benefit Report online, go to uchospitals.edu/about/community-benefits.)

Medical center leaders remain open to a dialogue with the city, state and other health care providers, particularly as it pertains to a regional solution for Chicago's trauma network system.

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Chicago, IL 60637

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