UCMC’s critical distance

“How can you ignore? We’re bleeding on your floor. How can you ignore? We’re dying at your door!” Last Friday, November 12, a crowd of about sixty chanted and carried signs across the University of Chicago quadrangle to protest the lack of a trauma center at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC). It was the second protest organized by Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), the youth wing of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), in response to the death of 18-year-old Damian Turner, a youth activist and cofounder of FLY.

Turner was shot on the night of August 14th just four blocks away from UCMC, but he was driven nine miles past it to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later. The South Side currently has no adult trauma center necessary for treating wounds from shootings, stabbings, and car accidents.

The Reverend Andre Smith described the frustration. “[The University has] the resources to save lives, but they don’t, and we refuse to accept that. If the community is considered one of the worst in country, why don’t we have a trauma center?”

Ranging in age, race, and affiliation, the protestors wore white T-shirts splattered with brown paint resembling gunshot wounds and red face paint evocative of blood. When gunshot-like sounds were fired into a megaphone, protestors fell to the ground acting dead. After a moment of silence, the protestors, motionless and “blood”-splotched, started chanting, “UofC is whack, bring the trauma center back!” The group then marched to UCMC, where 14 policeman and countless hospital employees watched the protestors demand to meet with UCMC directors to encourage them to build a Level I adult trauma center. Since FLY began protesting it has received a letter from UCMC, but no offer for a meeting.

UCMC spokesman John Easton commented in an email interview, “Achieving geographic balance in trauma care will require a regional solution. That solution should not come at the expense of other lifesaving services.” He cited a long list of services for which UCMC is the only South Side provider.

”It’s a tricky situation,” said Toby Chow, a protestor and UofC graduate student. “The University is a private institution, but the area depends on its resources. However, the University says it has a commitment to the community, so we are inviting UCMC to live up to its word.” (Julia Greenberg)