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Hospital Trauma Center Reduced; St. James won't take most critically ill

CHICAGO -- St. James Hospital and Health Centers in Olympia Fields notified state health officials Wednesday that it will stop treating the most critically injured trauma patients starting July 1 because it is unable to keep enough specialists around the clock.

"If we don't have the full range of services to offer, we should defer to someone else who can," said Seth Warren, president of St. James Hospital.

The Olympia Fields facility treated around 1,000 critically injured people each year. Now those patients likely will go to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the only south suburban hospital with a trauma surgeon on duty 24/7. Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana also is a Level 1 trauma center, while Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet is a Level 2 trauma center, Warren said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health designated the 30-year-old Olympia Fields facility as a Level 1 trauma center in 1988. St. James suspended that role for one month in 2005, citing insufficient state and federal funding and the loss of a key official.

Warren said the decision to permanently end the top-level trauma-care status "wasn't based on finances, but it is costly to run a trauma program."

The hospital will continue to maintain two fully operational emergency departments, he said, adding that about 98.5 percent of the 70,000 emergency room cases each year don't require top-level trauma treatment.

Warren acknowledged that the hospital resumed its top trauma status in 2005 after paramedics and others voiced concerns that taking people to Christ Medical from the far south suburbs might jeopardize lives.

"Obviously the ambulance providers are not going to be in favor of this," Warren said.

In his letter, Warren said St. James "will work cooperatively with area coordinators and providers to ensure that those requiring Level 1 trauma care in the future will receive it."

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