Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Trauma System for Georgia ??????
From last week in the Athens Banner Herald:
State lacks in trauma treatment
A top state official says Georgia needs twice as many certified "trauma centers" equipped and staffed to treat people with almost any kind of severe injuries, and a legislative study committee could recommend spending $70 million to $80 million a year to shore up the expensive, money-losing system.

The death rate from trauma - injuries such as those people can sustain in house fires and car wrecks - is 20 percent higher in Georgia than the national average.

"There is a direct cause and effect with the relatively small number of trauma centers we have and a bad outcome," said state Rep. Mickey Channell, R-Greensboro, a member of a joint state House-Senate study committee that has planned a series of five public hearings to study trauma care issues before the next session of the legislature convenes in January.

At the first hearing, Dr. Patrick O'Neal, head of the state Office of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma, told the committee the state has too few trauma centers, and the ones that exist are not well distributed geographically.

The majority are in the metro Atlanta area with only four south of I-20. Why the problem?
There's one big reason for the low number: Money, Channell said.

"In order to be approved (as a trauma center), there are all sorts of things you have to have, like having doctors on call 24 hours in all sorts of different specialties. That's very, very expensive, and at the end of the day, that's the root cause of it," he said. "Money is what it's going to take to change it."

Doctors have told the committee that the state's trauma care system operated at a loss of about $215 million last year, Channell said.
One option that is being discussed at these meetings is to attach surcharges to traffic tickets, an approach that has worked in other states.
While the article does an excellent job of raising awareness of the problem, (especially the lack of a trauma center in rapidly growing northeast Georgia) it is somewhat misguided. Not all trauma patients require care in a level 1 trauma center. Having worked at Athens Regional, and familiar with the capabilities of that hospital as well as St. Mary's. They have the physical plant and medical staff capability to perform as a level 2 trauma center, if they (and their medical staff) had the desire to do so.
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