Do you need legal or illegal drugs, or maybe some liquor? You can find those within one block of almost any residence in Chicago. Looking for porn, slot machines, violent gang members or crooked politicians? You might have to go two blocks to find those. But if you’re in need of an emergency room trauma center, the nearest one for some residents is 10 miles away. That was the focus of a protest this weekend U of C Hospital.
On Sunday, an estimated group of about 50 protesters assembled outside University of Chicago Hospital. With a handful of homemade signs, the group of mostly young people marched for access to emergency healthcare and called on U of C Hospital to open an adult trauma center.
Twenty years ago, Americans were shocked to discover a gaping hole in their healthcare system. It seems that the dozens of medical devices used to keep people alive during potentially fatal medical emergencies don’t fit on or couldn’t be used by small children. The result – adults needing emergency life-saving medical treatment traveled only a few blocks to the nearest hospital, while children were forced to travel miles to get to the nearest trauma unit. Today, in many Chicago communities, that trend has been reversed.
And that was the point of Sunday’s protest outside U of C Hospital. Demonstrators want to know why the giant, wealthy, and most politically powerful hospital in the nation - operated by President Obama and First Lady Michelle’s own University of Chicago - just completed a $700 million construction project, but did not include any funding to create an emergency trauma unit.
The lack of emergency healthcare couldn’t come at a worse time either. Gun violence and murder in Chicago is at a multi-decade high this month. As Mayor Emanuel tries every gimmick in the book to get the city out of the nation’s headlines as the murder capital of American, this month’s statistics show that the problem is only getting worse.
Just this weekend, a 15 year-old shining star of Chicago’s south side was gunned down and murdered only blocks from President Obama’s Chicago home. Hadiya Pendleton was a high school sophomore who, in addition to playing volleyball and being a band majorette for her school, also performed in Washington last week during the President’s inauguration festivities. The President’s three-day orgy of self-gratifying pomp could have funded the construction of a number of adult trauma centers in his hometown. But a multi-million dollar party featuring Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry is obviously more important.
Showing that Chicago’s murder problem is only getting worse, despite the calculated rhetoric by Mayor Emanuel and his police department, 15 year-old Hadiya Pendleton’s homicide last week was the city’s 3rd that day. It was also the 42nd murder of the month of January, with a couple days remaining to go. By comparison, the city notched 40 murders in January 2012 – the most in more than a decade – and finished the year with over 500 homicides.
How far is 32 minutes?
Demonstrating Chicago’s constant fuzzy and creative math, when asked how far the nearest emergency room trauma center is, city officials remarked, ‘No one in Cook County is more than 32 minutes from a Level 1 adult trauma center.’ Statements like those are what’s driving the young demonstrators to continue to turn out to march and demand closer hospital emergency rooms.
The fact is, in the city of Chicago, 32 minutes could be a half mile away, or 30 miles away. And a hospital emergency room that’s 5 miles away can be reached in 5 minutes on a warm, dry, Sunday night. But that same 5 miles can take 2 hours on a rainy, rush-hour weekday. If you’re stopped by a freight train, which many ambulances often are, add up to another 45 minutes to that travel time. In a world-class city like Chicago that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on its professional sports teams and billions on its own government employees, the lack of emergency medical services in parts of the city is insulting, and deadly.
Demonstrating for trauma centers
Protesters that braved the cold outside U of C Hospital this weekend said they were demonstrating against the hospital’s corresponding tour and open house, showing off its new $700 million facility. As detailed by the Chicago Sun Times, one marcher accused hospital officials of being less than honest, explaining that to say they “don’t have the resources to sustain a trauma center is offensive to the people of this community.”
A community group calling itself Fearless Leading By the Youth led the march and demonstration. The grassroots organization is an offshoot of STOP Chicago – Southside Together Organizing for Power. The very same organization held a similar protest demanding trauma centers on the eve of the globally attended NATO Summit this past summer. During that march, community residents walked the 10 miles from their south side neighborhood to the nearest adult trauma center.
During this weekend’s protest, four demonstrators were arrested. They accused University of Chicago Police officers of using unnecessary brutal force in apprehending the peaceful marchers, many of which were young high school and college students. One young girl was vocal about her treatment at the hands of University police.
“I’m very upset about being treated that way by male officers of the law. They treated me as if I had a gun in my hand,” the young girl told the Sun Times, “They took us down to the ground like we were vigilantes. We’re youth. The reason why we’re protesting on a Sunday is because tomorrow we have to go to school.”
For more information, visit StopChicago.org.
Subscribe to this Chicago independent political column. It's FREE and you can unsubscribe at any time. Simply click on the 'Subscribe' link just below the headline at the top of the article.