County hospital sees spike in violence victims

June 22, 2009 (CHICAGO) Doctors at Stroger Hospital say the number of people needing medical attention for gunshot wounds and stabbings more than tripled from what they normally see.

When the weather gets warmer, doctors at Stroger Hospital brace themselves for a busy time in the trauma unit.

The past three nights, they saw an influx of patients, treating about 30 victims of violence over a six hour period, each night. And as their caseloads grow, so does their frustration, because they say these are the types of injuries that can be prevented.

"We're seeing all our young kids getting shot and it's really terrible," said Dr. Roxanne Roberts, chair, Stroger Hospital Trauma Unit.

Dr. Roxanne Roberts has come off an exhausting shift at Stroger Hospital's trauma unit. It was overwhelmed this past weekend by patients suffering from gunshot or stab wounds.

Normally, an average of 10 such cases come in to the trauma unit each Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. But this past weekend, that number tripled each night to about 30 cases.

"We rush them to the operating room and we try to save their lives. Most of the time we're successful, but sometimes we're not. And that's always very difficult," said Dr. Roberts.

Roberts says what's also difficult is that the age of her patients gets younger every year. A lot of them are victims of violence that tends to erupt on the streets when the weather heats up.

The warm weekend saw several shootings, including this one Sunday night in Hyde Park. Roberts says other trauma units in the city have also seen an uptick in cases and wants the deadly trend to stop.

"We really need the community to help us with this," said Dr. Roberts.

Tio Hardiman with Ceasefire Illinois says the organization has been working hard to stop the violence.

"We've mediated more than 120 conflicts this year alone, where somebody could have gotten shot on the front end, and we had the guys put their guns down," said Tio Hardiman, Ceasefire Illinois.

Ceasefire works in 25 areas of the city, trying to prevent trouble before it happens. It wants to have an even bigger presence, sharing the same goal with doctors who don't want to see more young people getting killed in their prime.

"We really want to stop guys from entering the ER," said Hardiman.

Hardiman says the uptick in violence comes at a tough time for Ceasefire because of the state budget deficit, the organization may not get any money from Springfield, and more than 200 staff members may be laid off next week.

In the meantime, the weather is supposed to get even warmer into the 90's this week and Stroger trauma doctors are preparing to do what they can to help their patients.

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