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Nurses Strike At University Of Chicago Medical Center Putting Trauma Patients In Danger, First Responders Say

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thousands of nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center went on strike Friday. With the walkout come some lifesaving concerns, too.

First responders said trauma patients like gunshot victims may be put into a more life-threatening situation because of the strike.

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It's a matter of logistics. It will take paramedics longer to get them to the help they need.

Paramedics say minutes matter when it comes to saving a life, but less than 17 months after the University of Chicago's much sought after trauma center opened, it's now closed to urgent patients.

U of C sources say the nurses strike is prompting the hospital to divert those patients to other emergency rooms.

The problem is  none of those ERs are close.

U of C is located in Hyde Park on the South Side. The three other trauma centers are at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, 13.1 miles away; Stroger Hospital, 9.4 miles north; and Northwestern, which is 10.2 miles away.

The extra travel time is no less than 20 minutes, and that travel time is critical, according to a Chicago Fire Department paramedic.

First responders say 45 minutes from injury to treatment is the "golden window" when it comes to someone's chances of surviving a severe trauma.

Those extra minutes to an emergency room can have a significant impact.

That source says the assistant deputy fire commissioner for EMS even requested extra ambulances on the street during the strike as a precaution, but that request was denied.

U of C's trauma center treated almost 3,000 people in its first year.

A U of C hospital spokesperson can't say how long the ER will be on bypass and will evaluate the situation as the weekend progresses.

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