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The University of Chicago Medical Center wants to relocate, expand emergency services

The University of Chicago Medical Center is seeking permission to relocate and expand its emergency department on its Hyde Park campus at a cost of $36 million.

U of C wants to relocate its emergency department from Mitchell Hospital to the Center for Care and Discovery and increase the number of treatment stations, from 36 to 42, according to documents submitted on Dec. 11 to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

Despite noting that its emergency department had lost $23 million last year, U of C said in a statement that the goal of the move is to better meet the growing needs of UCMC’s patient community, “by creating additional capacity to treat more adult emergency patients with reduced waiting time.”

It noted that “adult ED visits have increased steadily in recent years, from about 40,000 in 2009 to nearly 52,000 in 2014, an annual average growth of 5.3 percent. That rate is expected to continue through 2019.”

And in their proposal, U of C said that patients on average spend 6½ hours in the emergency room, and those who are admitted to the hospital are discharged in less than 11 hours on average.

The state board has tentatively scheduled a consideration of the proposal for the March 10, 2015.

The U of C medical center has two emergency departments: the Adult Emergency Department and Comer Children’s Hospital.

Comer is a Level 1 pediatric trauma center that treats patients up to age 15, although officials have announced that they’re taking steps to include treatment of 16- and 17-year-olds.

U of C’s adult center is not a level 1 trauma center, meaning it isn’t equipped to handle more severe injuries such as stabbings, car crashes and gunshot wounds.  These types of injuries also tend to be more expensive and not reimbursed.

The new proposal does not include plans to offer level 1 trauma center in its new ER.

Protesters on the South Side have repeatedly argued that U of C could create one, though hospital officials have repeatedly said that implementing an adult level 1 trauma center would take away capacity from other essential services that the medical center currently provides.

Veronica Morris-Moore, a spokeswoman for Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) – a group that has been vocal about creating an adult trauma center on the South Side — said U of C’s announcement is proof that U of C is capable of doing projects they deem reasonable to do.

“There a lot of things that are less of an undertaking than this new proposal,” Morris-Moore said, again calling for a level 1 trauma center.

A good estimate for how much it would cost yearly to operate a level 1 trauma center was not immediately available.

U of C has said they are willing to be involved in discussions about creating a regional effort that takes into account “the needs of the South Side and the long-term financial and operational realities of launching an adult level 1 trauma center.”

The medical center said the proposed project is the latest step in a multiphase medical campus improvement that began when the state granted approval to build the Center for Care and Discovery in 2008.  Additional projects since then “sought to further concentrate clinical operations in and around UChicago Medicine’s newest hospital, which opened to patients in February 2013,” it said.