Vista Medical Center East loses trauma designation, pushing life-saving services away from patients

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, February 5, 2024
Life-saving services will be further away from many suburban patients
Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, IL lost its trauma designation after an Illinois health department investigation on Friday.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (WLS) -- Our coverage of this story has moved here.

Vista Medical Center East lost its trauma designation this past Friday following an in-person investigation conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The designation change lead one elected official to declare, on Sunday night, that lives could be lost as a result.

Even as ambulances continued to drop off patients at Waukegan's Vista Medical Center East on Sunday, the hospital is no longer able to provide many of the critical life-saving services it used to.

The IDPH released a statement, saying, "On February 2, the Illinois Department of Public Health notified Vista Medical Center in Waukegan that its Level II Trauma Center designation has been revoked due to its absence of essential services needed to maintain this designation, including lack of a blood bank, anesthesia, neurology, urology, or a full time Trauma Coordinator. This action does not affect other services at the hospital.

IDPH and state government officials have been in communication with Lake County leaders, surrounding hospitals, trauma centers, and Emergency Medical Service providers in the area to ensure that the residents of Lake County and the region will continue to have access to vital emergency services."

The impact, said State Sen. Adriane Johnson, will be widespread.

"It's not just Waukegan. It's North Chicago. It's Gurnee. It's Zion area," Johnson said.

Leaving Waukegan without a trauma center means some patients will now have to travel anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes farther to either Lake Forest, Libertyville, Highland Park or even across the border to Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

"That's just too far. And we do know that depending on the emergency, time is of the essence. Let's say someone is having a stroke, for example, or a heart attack," Johnson said. "I'm concerned about the lives that may inevitably be lost in this process when you transport patients to the different hospitals," Johnson said.

And while the designation change does not impact the other services being offered at Vista Medical, there is concern that the hospital, which has had three different owners over five years, could close entirely if a solution isn't found that allows them to regain their trauma certification.

ABC7 reached out to Vista Medical for comment, but did not immediately receive a response. The issue is expected to be discussed at length on Monday both by county health officials and during Waukegan's city council meeting.