After years of resident protests, Chicago’s South Side is finally expected to receive an adult trauma center to help combat gun violence in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods.
Health officials announced on Thursday that this region will be receiving a medical facility slated to cost around $40 million, which will be a joint project between University of Chicago Medicine and Sinai Health System.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the project includes converting the Holy Cross Hospital emergency room into a Level 1 trauma center, which means that some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods will be within five miles of a medical facility which is capable of treating life-threatening injuries, such as stab wounds and gun shots.
The new facility will be located at 68th Street and California Avenue, providing immediate and life-saving care to the neighborhoods of Englewood, Washington Park and Greater Grand Crossing.
The Associated Press reported that Chicago’s South Side hasn’t had a local trauma treatment center since 1991 — which was 15 years ago — when the Michael Reese Hospital in Bronzeville closed its doors, including its trauma care unit.
Without that facility, victims of gun violence had to travel 10 miles or more via ambulance to reach the closest trauma care center. Although wound care is the most common treatment provided by outpatient and community urgent care clinics, most of the clinics — and even some smaller hospital emergency rooms — are ill-equipped to handle gunshot wounds.
Furthermore, studies have shown that the difference between traveling five miles and 10 miles to a trauma care center can actually be the difference between life and death when gun violence is involved; one study found that gun violence victims are 23% more likely to die if they have to travel 10 miles instead of five.
Community activists, residents, and healthcare workers have been petitioning local officials to replace the trauma center; the Chicagoist reported that protesters have been primarily targeting the University of Chicago in the past five years, hoping to convince school administrators to build an adult trauma care facility at the college’s Hyde Park medical center.
The new medical facility is expected to ease community tensions between residents and the university — tensions which became so extreme that the issue actually gained national attention. President Obama has even advocated for an additional medical center in the South Side.
The University of Chicago Medical department will pay for the expansion of Holy Cross Hospital, according to the Chicago Tribune, and will provide specialists including neurologists, orthopedic doctors, plastic surgeons, and urologists.
The Sinai Health System, which acquired Holy Cross in 2013, will provide the majority of basic medical personnel, including general physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and trauma care support services.
The project still requires certifications and approvals from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, as well as state health facility permits, before the trauma care center can be opened.