By Craig Chamberlain
The UI Board of Trustees met in Urbana May 9, but its principal focus was on university medical facilities based in Chicago.
The trustees agreed to let the UIC Medical Center take over the operation of Mile Square Health Center from the city of Chicago.
The trustees approved an agreement with the city for operation of the center, which provides primary health care for residents of Chicago's West Side. The agreement is effective from June 1 to Dec. 31, 2000, and includes renewal options for three one-year terms.
Mile Square has been operated by the city, with UIC providing professional staff and services, since December 1990.
The board approved the UIC takeover despite the opposition of Trustee Judith Reese, R-Chicago, who argued that the clinic could become a financial drain on the university. She said political considerations will make it impossible for the university to exercise its legal right to pull out of the agreement.
"Make no mistake," she said. "This is ours for life."
Trustee Gloria Jackson Bacon, D-Chicago, countered that the clinic was a necessary part of the university's public service mission.
"This is not a giveaway," she said. "We need 10 Mile Squares."
Meanwhile, R.K. Dieter Haussmann, UIC's vice chancellor for health services, said he is considering "decommissioning" 30 to 45 beds at the UIC Medical Center because of a steady decline in the number of occupied beds at the hospital, part of a nationwide trend.
Although the number of patients treated at the medical center has risen slightly in the last year, a decline in the average length of stay has reduced the average daily census from 324 in the first three quarters of fiscal 1994-95 to 306 in the same period during the current fiscal year. The hospital has 430 available beds.
Haussmann said the reduction in patient census will probably lead to staff reductions at the medical center.
A similar decline in occupancy at Veterans Administration hospitals threatens physician training programs at the UIC College of Medicine, Dean Gerald Moss told trustees.
On any given day, some 100 medical residents and 200 undergraduate medical students are working and studying medicine at the Westside VA hospital, two blocks west of the College of Medicine buildings, Moss said.
But those training programs are in jeopardy because of a plan by the Department of Veterans Affairs to move all medical and surgical programs from Westside to the Lakeside VA hospital, just north of Chicago's Loop.
Westside would become essentially an outpatient clinic, which would provide insufficient training experience for UIC students.
"I can't imagine a more serious problem for us to overcome," Moss said.
Richard M. Schoell, the university's director of federal relations, said he will be discussing the matter with the White House. If nothing comes of that, he said, "we'd revisit a more aggressive legislative strategy with Congress."
In other business, the board:
-- Approved the selection of an architect/engineer for construction of a new building for the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Lab on the UIUC campus.
The lab currently is housed in two locations, at 1307 W. Park, Urbana, and in the Beckman Institute. But with the lease at the Park Street facility due to expire in 1998, UI officials have determined that the portion of the program housed there will be relocated to a new facility.
The new building will be located south of the Large Animal Clinic and is being planned for 15,520 gross square feet of space. Funds for construction, estimated at over $2.2 million, will come from institutional funds in the provost's office; the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; and the College of Medicine.
The firm approved by the board to provide architectural and engineering services for the project is Ralph Hahn & Associates Inc., Springfield.
-- Approved the awarding of bids totaling $875,570 for remodeling work in Roger Adams Lab. The work is set to begin in June and be completed by January 1997.
The $1.2 million project consists of removing two mezzanine levels and replacing them with a new floor that is level with the first floor. The remodeling will provide new space for labs for the department of chemical engineering.
-- Heard a report from UI President Emeritus Stanley O. Ikenberry on the status of recommendations made by the Governor's Commission on Education Funding, which he chaired.
The commission's report got an immediate cold reception from legislators when it was released on March 21, mostly because it called for an increase in income taxes, but Ikenberry said he has found support since then among legislative leaders for many of the report's other recommendations.
Getting any of those recommendations into law might take at least two to three years, he said. It is important to pursue changes in education funding, however, in order to restore faith in the state's public education system, he said.