UChicago Medicine breaks ground on emergency department with trauma center

Four months after receiving state regulatory approval, the University of Chicago Medicine held a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 15 for the South Side’s newest emergency department, which will also offer Level 1 adult trauma care.

The event marked the first major step in implementing UChicago Medicine’s Get CARE plan, which will dramatically increase access to emergency, trauma and specialty care, and includes a dedicated cancer hospital. The new department is scheduled to open in January 2018.

The new expanded emergency department is projected to treat an additional 25,000 patient visits a year by 2021. More than 2,000 adult trauma patients are expected in the first full year of trauma center designation.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Ald. Leslie Hairston joined a crowd of about 200 community leaders, South Side residents, government officials, and university representatives and employees for the celebration. Representing the University of Chicago were President Robert J. Zimmer, Executive Vice President Kenneth Polonsky and Medical Center President Sharon O’Keefe.

Additional regulatory approvals must be sought before trauma care services can begin. UChicago Medicine has begun proceedings with regional trauma directors and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“We recognize the needs in our community are urgent,” Polonsky said. “While there are elements of the regulatory process over which we don’t have control, we are fast-tracking the process wherever we can so we may begin offering adult trauma care as quickly as possible.”

UChicago Medicine already has begun identifying and recruiting staff for the new trauma center. The hospital posted the trauma director position over the summer and expects to have every faculty position within the new trauma center posted in the coming weeks.

The new emergency department is scheduled to open in January 2018, with adult trauma care estimated to begin in early spring 2018. The project is expected to cost $39 million to build. The entire Get CARE plan is projected to cost $269 million, which includes financing, and create more than 1,000 permanent positions and 400 construction jobs, representing a significant investment in the South Side.