It's important that the medical needs of low-income people in east Omaha continue to be met, no matter what happens with Creighton University Medical Center, say people who live and work in the area.
The board that oversees the Alegent Creighton Health system of hospitals and medical clinics meets today in Lincoln to discuss — and possibly decide — what will happen with the system's trauma and academic medical centers. Those centers now are at Creighton at 30th and California Streets, but they may be moving southwest to Bergan Mercy Medical Center, which is at 75th Street and Mercy Road.
Alegent Creighton Health officials have said Bergan would be the least expensive of their options and make the most sense. The system's CEO and a board member both said again Wednesday that the system will continue to serve the needs of low-income residents, many of whom live in the eastern part of Omaha closer to Creighton University Medical Center.
Still, Dr. Charles Filipi, a surgery professor at the Creighton University School of Medicine, said he's concerned.
If the hospital function at Creighton moves elsewhere, Filipi said, the health system should open several clinics in the area offering internal medicine, general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology and other services.
“That is the only way that I can see that access will be preserved for the poor. Many of these people can't afford a cab, they can't afford gas or their car breaks down.”
City Councilman Ben Gray, who represents northeast Omaha, stressed that “the emergency room needs to stay” at Creighton, but he said he could live with Alegent Creighton Health either renovating the Creighton hospital or moving the trauma center to Bergan.
When people think of trauma cases, Gray said, they think about gunshots and knife wounds. But such cases represent just over 10 percent of trauma cases, he said, quoting Alegent Creighton Health officials and his research. Most trauma cases, he said, are car and other accidents.
So far this year, Creighton has treated 1,256 trauma patients, 138 of whom were brought there via helicopter. In 2012, Creighton treated 1,478 trauma patients, with 201 brought there by helicopter. Creighton serves as the city's designated trauma center four of every seven days.
The Nebraska Medical Center, which handles trauma the other three days, has had 1,198 trauma cases (with 133 helicopter transports) in 2013, and last year treated 1,355 trauma patients (with 152 helicopter transports).
Willie Barney, president of the north Omaha-based Empowerment Network, said Alegent Creighton Health officials who have met with his group “are looking at health from a prevention angle.”
Studies have found that education, employment and neighborhood conditions have a big impact on a person's health.
“It appears to me,” he said, “that they're open to how can we help address some of those other issues that would ultimately improve health.”
In a statement, Richard Hachten, Alegent Creighton Health's president and CEO, said: “Caring for the poor and underserved is our mission. It is the legacy entrusted to us by our founders more than 140 years ago. That is our ministry, and it will not change.”
The Rev. Jim Clifton, a member of the board overseeing the health system, said, “No matter the location of the academic medical center, we are committed to providing really high-level ambulatory (outpatient) services, and access to the system, at or near the current CUMC location.”