Summer is approaching and so is the likelihood of an increased number of deaths from gunshots. There have been more than 1,000 people shot by guns since the beginning of 2015, according to statistics gathered by the Chicago Tribune, and the summer heat will drive that number higher. Many of those shootings happen on the South Side where there is no level 1 trauma center – the emergency medical care best prepared to treat patients critically injured by gunshots.
President Barack Obama’s recent announcement that he would build his presidential library in Chicago was applauded by many. The decision to spend more than half-a-billion dollars to build it on the South Side, however, angered some, specifically those who’ve been seeking a level 1 trauma center for the area.
“We really need a trauma center; the seconds, minutes can make a difference,” said Tamara Manasseh, the President of Mothers Against Senseless Killings organization. “I know a lot of mothers who can tell you that their children could have survived if they had a closer trauma center.”
Michelle Pearson, 20, the mother of 4-year-old Antonio, was shot in the head on the South Side of Chicago in June 2014. Less than 2 miles away sits the University of Chicago medical center, a world-class hospital that no longer has a level-1 adult trauma center.
This gaping hole in emergency care forced EMT’s to transport Pearson more than seven miles through city traffic to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Pearson, who was in a coma, died in March. Whether she would have survived if a trauma center was nearby could not be verified. But a study by Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Dr. Marie Crandall, a professor in surgery/trauma suggests that gunshot victims have a higher mortality rate if they are shot more than five miles from a level 1 trauma center.
“In individual cases, a few minutes can be the difference between life and death for gunshot wound patients,” said Nathan Sandalow, an ER doctor at a West Side hospital.
The university of Chicago closed its trauma center in 1988, two short years after it opened.
That left only six trauma centers to serve the city, none of them on the South Side where many of the city’s shootings occur.
The University of Chicago claimed that the cost of maintaining the trauma center was just too high and would have affected other important services such as the existing level 1 trauma center for children and Chicago’s only hospital-based emergency helicopter.
In Chicago, watch Medill Reports video stories on CAN-TV channel 27