Editorial: Finally, an adult trauma center for South Side

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Entrance to Emergency Room at Holy Cross Hospital, where a new adult trauma center is to be built.

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In a span of 24 hours last week, a University of Chicago doctor treated a 38-year-old woman who had been shot in the thigh, a 41-year-old man who had lost three fingers in an accident and a 15-year-old boy who had been shot in the shinbone.

That there is a dire need for more adult trauma care on Chicago’s South Side is undeniable. The U of C doctor,  Douglas Dirschl, sees the need every day. Community activists have been demanding it for years.

But a new freestanding state-of-the-art trauma center at Holy Cross Hospital, announced Thursday, will go a long way toward meeting that need. It deserves our city and state’s full support. It will save many lives.


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It’s tempting to ask what took so long. The South Side has been underserved by trauma care since at least 1991, when Michael Reese Hospital closed. But the activists railed, and they never quit railing, and now they have won, though they insist the Holy Cross plan is not good enough. Does grassroots organizing work? You bet.

The $40 million center, scheduled to open in two years at 68th Street and California Avenue, will be run by two of the Chicago region’s most capable healthcare providers — Sinai Health Systems and U. of C. Medicine. Sinai has deep experience in trauma medicine and the University of Chicago is a national leader in essential related sub-specialties.

The trauma center will be located in a part of the South Side that suffers from a high concentration of trauma cases. Within its core five-mile service radius, it will serve neighborhoods north to 24th Street, west to Harlem Avenue, south to 109th Street and east almost to Stony Island.

Critics say the new trauma center will be too far from other Southeast Side neighborhoods that have high numbers of trauma cases, but much of that area will, in fact, be within the five-mile service radius. And if the trauma center were located in Hyde Park, as the critics would prefer, at least a quarter of its five-mile radius would be out on Lake Michigan. The Holy Cross Hospital location offers more and better trauma care for a greater number of South Side communities.

Holy Cross will upgrade many services to support the trauma center, including its emergency room, operating rooms and intensive care unit.

In December, U. of C. Medicine announced it wanted to raise the age limit to 17 from 15 at its pediatric trauma center, which the Illinois Department of Public Health would have to approve. The critics said it should be raised all the way to 21.  But now, with new adult trauma center in the works, U. of C. officials say they may drop the whole idea.

There’s still merit to raising the age to 17, a way of shoring up trauma care services even more. But 21?

A children’s hospital, for both medical and cultural reasons, is no place for patients who are grown men and women.

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