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March 5, 2013

Pritzker Dean Dr. Kenneth Polonsky discusses trauma center

Dr. Kenneth Polonsky, dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine, defended the UCMC’s stance against building a trauma center at a public roundtable discussion in the Biological Sciences Learning Center last night. Responding to a formal statement submitted by 14 Pritzker students, Polonsky also discussed the necessity of engaging in a dialogue with trauma center activist groups and the implications of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on health care at UCMC.

Polonsky stated that the ACA, which increases funding for health care providers like the UCMC, would likely not absorb the estimated $20 million a new adult level 1 trauma center would cost. The ACA would only alleviate health provision costs due to the expanded Medicaid coverage for more low-income patients, he said.

“In the current climate, where healthcare reimbursement is diminishing, $20 million would have to come at the expense of other programs. We don’t have an endless amount of money, and we don’t have endless capacity,” he said.

The planned talking point of the biannual “Dean’s Brown Bag” meeting was the new Center for Care and Discovery, which opened on February 23. But the question-and-answer session mostly centered on the ongoing trauma center campaign, at the direction of a statement submitted by the U of C chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a student advocacy group for national insurance.

“As medical students, we actually didn’t know that much about the trauma center,” Scott Goldberg, co-founder of PNHP, said. “[Medical students] are not really sure how they can get involved in this issue, or what their role might be.”

Goldberg asked Polonsky how the UCMC could better foster dialogue with activist groups, following its conversations with STOP, SHE, and FLY after the January 27 protest. Polonsky conceded that the UCMC could be doing more to improve engagement.

“I accept what you say, that we haven’t adequately communicated. I think we are moving to communicate with a number of community groups, and we hope that we will be able to have a constructive dialogue.”

Polonsky believes that at this point, the trauma center is not the UCMC’s most important priority.

“I think we are going to have sit down and figure out what are the highest priorities. In my own view...there are other higher priorities than a trauma center.”

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