INDIANAPOLIS | Gary officials and medical leaders have begun laying the legislative groundwork they hope will ultimately lead a new teaching hospital and trauma center in the city.
On Tuesday, state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, persuaded the General Assembly's Health Finance Commission to recommend existing state funds be rerouted to a teaching and trauma hospital feasibility study.
Lawmakers set aside some $3 million in 2011 for architectural and engineering work on the proposed hospital set to be located at Indiana University Northwest. But Brown said a study is needed first to demonstrate the need and to leverage additional federal and private funds.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson told the commission the city isn't asking for a handout. Rather, it seeks an investment in the Broadway corridor that would pay off in several ways.
"The development of a trauma center in that same footprint would not only meet the health-care needs of an entire region, but it would also complement the development of the University Park area and economic development in the city of Gary," she said.
Northwest Indiana lacks a trauma center -- a facility more comprehensive than an emergency room that features on-site surgeons and doctors specially trained to treat traumatic injuries. Such injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans younger than 45.
The closest Indiana trauma hospital is in South Bend, though region residents and accident victims on area expressways are typically transported to Chicago trauma centers.
Patrick Bankston, director of the IUN School of Medicine, and Michael McGee, chief of emergency medicine at Methodist Hospital, said children and other trauma victims are put at risk from the lack of a nearby trauma center.
"As many as 35 percent of trauma patients will die because optimal acute care is not available," McGee said.
Following the presentation, state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, deputy chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he believes "the stars are beginning to align" for the Gary teaching and trauma hospital plan.