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Letter: Ingalls should reverse decision on South Suburban Family Shelter contract

Dear Editor,

Based on the article “Homewood domestic violence agency surprised by Ingalls contract termination,” posted on your website on Dec. 4, 2018, UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital is ending its contract with the South Suburban Family Shelter in favor of a contract with the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. This is disheartening. 

The South Suburban Family Shelter is one of the only domestic violence assistance programs in the Southland. The organization has been helping families in the South Suburbs since 1980. The staff members live in the communities they serve and have strong relationships with local law enforcement, elected officials, businesses, not-for-profits, and community members.

According to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, another woman in the U.S. is assaulted every nine seconds. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families, and 50 percent of homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness. 

The National Network to End Domestic Violence completed its 12th census in 2018 and states, “Victims often reach out for assistance after a particularly violent or threatening incident, or when the violence has escalated and they fear for their lives or the lives of their children.” And their Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Fact Sheet states that “37% of women seeking injury-related treatment in hospital emergency rooms were there because of injuries inflicted by a current or former spouse/partner.”

This is not to say that the YWCA is not a great organization that does amazing work. However, I find it difficult to believe that an organization, without an office or the same local resources within a neighborhood can provide better, or even equal assistance to families in need. The YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago is just that, “of Metropolitan Chicago.” The Southland is not Chicago and has its own unique set of needs. The Southland is already devoid of trauma centers and mental health services. To outsource assistance for domestic violence victims shows a lack of sensitivity and awareness on the part of UChicago Ingalls.

Although the hospital has not released a full statement on its reason for the change in the contract, it seems apparent from the timing that the change is based on a request for more funding from the South Suburban Family Shelter. According to your article, “Ingalls had been paying just under $17,000 annually for SSFS’s services at the four locations.” The hospital reported to the IRS in 2015 with a total revenue of $304,368,278. The cost to
maintain the South Suburban Family Shelter’s lifesaving services is merely a drop in the bucket and the increase requested was nominal.

I have a long standing relationship with the Ingalls and University of Chicago medical network. My son was born at the Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey. His pediatrician is through UChicago/Ingalls network, and that same office was my pediatrician when I was a child. The care has always been exemplary. Our doctors were caring, the nurses were outstanding, the reception and triage staff was polite and efficient. We had nothing but good experiences. That is another reason this decision is so disappointing. 

I can only hope that the patients of this network of healthcare providers makes their opinions on this matter known and their voices heard. UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital must re-employ the South Suburban Family Shelter for the sake of domestic violence victims in the Southland.

Annie Lawrence

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