Posted by StreetWise in Magazine ArticlesUpwards of 300 University of Chicago students, hospital staff, community members and activists gathered at the U of C Medical Center at 5815 S. Maryland Ave. on Friday, May 23 to demand the development of a Level 1 trauma center on Chicago’s South Side. The event concluded a “Week of Action” to pressure the university into acknowledging the necessity of a trauma center in the area and lending its medical expertise and resources to its establishment.
The Week of Action was sponsored by the U of C group Students for Health Equity (SHE), which has been working alongside community organizing group Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) to establish the Level 1 trauma center on the South Side. SHE was founded in 2011 after the death of 19-year-old Damian Turner, who was shot in August 2010 four blocks from the University of Chicago Medical Center but transported nine miles away to the nearest Level 1 trauma center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Kicking off five days of demonstrations in the Week of Action, on Monday morning, May 19, eight SHE and FLY members chained themselves to fences and machinery at a university construction site. The protesters were forcibly removed by U of C police officers. Subsequent days featured a vigil, a bus tour of the South Side led by nurses at the U of C Medical Center, a rally led by doctors and Friday’s culminating community march.
First-year Ph.D. candidate Emilio Comay del Junco, an active member of SHE, said the Week of Action was planned to nearly coincide with the one-year anniversary of U of C Medical School Dean Kenneth Polonsky’s remarks in a public meeting May 28, 2013. Polonsky said that the U of C would be open to collaboration with other South Side medical centers to provide trauma care.
“We decided to hold the Week of Action to step up the campaign for the university to open a Level 1 trauma center on the South Side. It’s been almost a year since Dean Polonsky said UChicago Med would be a part of a solution to this problem, and yet in a year they’ve taken absolutely no steps and refused to take part in any further dialogue. The time has come for the university to give back to people in need,” Comay del Junco said.
The U of C Medical Center currently boasts the South Side’s only burn unit, the only Level 1 trauma center for children and the only neonatal intensive care unit, according to its prepared material. The hospital is also a national leader in the treatment of diabetes, asthma and childhood obesity, as well as cancer prevention and access to primary care.
Lorna Wong, director of media relations and the news office for U of C Medical Center, distributed a statement at the May 23 protest that said the South Side trauma center is too big for the U of C to handle alone. “Developing a Level 1 adult trauma center could compromise the Medical Center’s ability to support these critical services. It would be a massive undertaking, requiring significant resources and support, as well as a complex decision-making process that must involve the city and state… The most effective way to address trauma is to prevent it in the first place.”
Story & Photos by Marissa Page
StreetWise Editorial Intern