Protestors call on U of C to keep clinic open

  • By Alex Parker
  • Staff Writer
  • July 01, 2009 @ 7:00 AM

Calling on University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer to halt the closure of a Kenwood women’s clinic, protestors marched in front of the university administration building yesterday afternoon.

Holding signs and chanting slogans, they said the university is discriminating against poor black women by closing the clinic.

“The university is turning its back on the community because, let’s face it, it can,” said Hyde Park resident Judy Weiss, one of about two dozen protestors from the community group, Coalition for Healthcare Access Responsibility and Transparency.

The university announced in May that the Women’s Health Center, 1301 E. 47th St., would close in late June because it was losing money. University of Chicago Medical Center spokesman John Easton said yesterday the clinic would stay open until mid-July.

“We’re concerned about the patients,” he said. Easton said clinicians are trying to arrange other locations for patients to be treated, until the university “can make sure (all patients) have been connected with other doctors and clinics.”

Easton says patients with complicated pregnancies or gynecological issues can still be seen by UCMC doctors at other locations. Patients who need primary care being referred to a number of nearby clinics, including those that are part of UCMC’s South Side Healthcare Collaborative.

Clinic supporters have protested the closure in the past, and are vocally opposed to UCMC’s Urban Health Initiative, which seeks to encourage patients from seeking primary care at the emergency room in favor of community clinics. They say such practices puts patients on Medicare or Medicaid at a disadvantage.

The university maintains that patients can be better served by finding medical homes for primary care, easing the burden at the emergency room and building a relationship with community-based doctors.

UCMC is also in the midst of slashing $100 million from its budget as it copes with the economy.

Ebonee Stevenson, 27, told the crowd of how, upon discovering a 15-pound ovarian tumor, doctors at UCMC told her to seek treatment elsewhere because she didn’t have private insurance.

“If it weren’t for the doctors at the women’s clinic, I don’t know where I would be right now,” she said.

Several protestors attempted to give a list of demands, which included a moratorium on clinic closures, to Zimmer in his office. However, he was not there.

Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.