GUEST COMMENTARY: Lives, economy suffer from lack of trauma system

2012-12-04T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Lives, economy suffer from lack of trauma systemBy John T. Hart nwitimes.com
December 04, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The Nov. 14 editorial, "Draft a prescription for trauma," made the point that Indiana, and in particular Northwest Indiana, needs more trauma centers. You couldn't be more correct.

In addition to trauma centers, what is also needed is a statewide trauma system. A trauma system is comprised of many parts working together that include, but are not limited to, an injury prevention program, emergency medical services, trauma centers, and rehab or extended care facilities.

The parts of the system work together with the goal of reducing injuries, transporting patients to the most appropriate facilities while providing expert care, treating the injured patient in a trauma center when injury criteria are met, and the rehabilitation of the trauma patient.

So why do we need a trauma center when the hospital up the road is kind, compassionate, and treated your child’s flu, your grandmother’s pneumonia, and your heart attack with care and precision? Because verified trauma centers have to meet certain criteria that make them specialists in treating trauma victims -- criteria that include equipment, training and medical specialties that might not normally be available or staffed 24 hours a day in a non-trauma center.

So why all the equipment, training and specialties? In more than 30 years of studies across the United States, it has been proven time and time again that a trauma center can reduce the chance of death by up to 30 percent in the injured patient!

I would love to tell you that if it were my loved one severely injured, I would want them to have that extra 30 percent shot at life or a better chance at a full recovery because of the equipment, training and specialties available at a trauma center 24 hours a day. That won’t convince everyone; some would say that it’s not worth the cost because it will never happen to them or their family.

Let’s look at the data and see who trauma affects, and the cost of trauma as it stands now without a trauma center in Northwest Indiana, or a statewide trauma system.

Data from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state the leading cause of death in 2007 (the latest year available) for Hoosiers ages 1 to 44 was “unintentional injury,” or trauma. Motor vehicle accidents lead the way in this category, and they can affect everyone, everywhere. 

When all unintentional injury categories are looked at as a whole, the costs are staggering. In 2007, the CDC reports that fatal unintentional injuries cost Hoosiers more than $2.2 billion because of medical costs and lost work!

This might lead you to believe that a majority of these costs are medical expenses, but it is the lost work cost that hits us all. The total cost for lost work in 2007 topped $2 billion.

Your editorial said it right: We need to start working now on a trauma center in Northwest Indiana, and a statewide trauma system. Not only are there lives at stake, but so is our economy.

John T. Hart of Cedar Lake helped draft the trauma triage and transport protocol while co-chair of the Emergency Medical Services Section of the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association.

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