It is racist, but this is the argument that people have put forth toward this highly charged issue.
Well I'm guessing they took it as a direct attack on the poor. The reason the ED was shut down in the first place was because of the enormous number of poor uninsured people being brought in as victims of violent crimes. People were actually saying that by shuttering the ED, the hospital should lose its "non-profit" status. In order to be a non-profit, if I'm not mistaken, you need to do charity cases.
It's not racism, it's economics. The people who aren't paying in this case might disproportionately comprised of minorities, but that doesn't change the dollars and cents.
You don't need to do charity cases to be a non-profit (and I'd be very surprised if such a big, specialized place as the University of Chicago wasn't doing some pro-bono work).
These people don't have a leg to stand on (and no, it's not because they had a 10 mile transport after a gunshot wound to said leg
). It's a private entity, and they can offer the services they want. If they kept taking losses on their trauma service, it changes what other things they can do, and potentially even if they're able to keep the lights on. I think it would be more reasonable to negotiate what kinds of patients are suitable for transport to a level II center versus a level I. It sounds like they were willing to send most things to a level II where Geebeejay is from, while in my home city, we had more stringent requirements on what had to to to the only level I trauma center in town (I think penetrating trauma to an extremity without neurovascular compromise could go to level II, but to the chest, head, or abdomen was going to the level I center that was greater than 10 miles away from much of the city, and hundreds of miles from some of the places it served. Same for rollover accidents, death in the same passenger compartment, intrusion of greater than 12 inches into the passenger compartment, and falls of greater than something like 10 feet, regardless of actual patient complaint, if I remember correctly).
The patient they discharged after a dog bite to the face and told to follow up at Cook County seems a lot more egregious (not the original article, but posted and discussed in the EM forums here: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=603772&highlight=chicago
). But having read responses from both sides, even that's not completely black and white. They very well may be unfriendly to the poor, but this isn't the battle to fight.
EDIT: Looks like they're not a Level II trauma center at U of C either, based on what calvnandhobbs68 posted while I was writing this up. Bummer for the community, but they are a private business, and entitled to run themselves accordingly.