Raise funds for trauma network


If you ever suffer life-threatening injuries in a car accident, a fall, a gunshot wound or a heart attack, you’d better hope you’re within 40 miles or so of a trauma center. If you are, you can get the quick and specialized help you need within the so-called “golden hour” where the majority of lives of critically injured trauma patients are thought to be saved or lost.

Level one trauma centers – Georgia has four – are emergency rooms on steroids; they can treat virtually any injury, with surgeons and specialists of all kinds on call around the clock and facilities and equipment ready for anything.

They are also money-losers; the Medical Center of Central Georgia’s emergency room, which includes a level one trauma center, lost $23 million during fiscal 2005 (leading to talk of dropping to a lower level of care).

One reason for the high costs is that so many trauma center clients are uninsured. Another is that it is hard to find enough specialists and surgeons willing to pay sky-high malpractice insurance rates for treating such high-risk cases and to be on call at all hours.

And yet, level-one trauma care is needed. (The three other centers are in Atlanta and Savannah.) Georgia has only nine other trauma centers, certified at lower levels. Hospital administrators say that about 700 lives would be saved each year in Georgia if its trauma care was up to the national average.

The way to get it there is to establish a statewide trauma network. Right now too many people are 150 or 200 miles from the nearest trauma center. And state Rep. Larry O’Neal of Bonaire, who co-chaired a legislative study committee on the issue and chairs the house tax-writing committee, thinks the state should subsidize such a system.

Expensive? Yes. But what are 700 lives worth? O’Neal’s committee suggested surcharges on motor vehicle registrations or cell phone bills. Other states use add-ons to traffic fines or automobile sales taxes.

His efforts to spread trauma care and help finance that which already exists deserve strong support.
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