Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin deserves credit for gathering information on the state's trauma care system. There are obvious gaps — including in Northwest Indiana, where no trauma center exists.
So what does it take to fill those gaps? Money.
Establishing and operating a trauma center can be expensive. Doing so means having specialists on hand 24 hours a day. Adding a medical helicopter to the mix, for the ability to transport patients more quickly than by ambulance, adds even more to the cost.
Indiana doesn't currently have a way to fund trauma centers, so hospitals have to pick up the tab. That's a major commitment for a hospital to make.
But the cost must not be seen purely as dollar and cents. The cost of not providing the service must be factored in as well.
On June 28, at a Portage stop on the Indiana State Department of Health's listening tour, a bulletin board invited attendees to tell their story on index cards that covered the board.
"A trauma center saved my nephew's life," one card read. He is one of the lucky ones.
Northwest Indiana is served by trauma centers in South Bend and Oak Park. While we're grateful to them, the extra time to get there can make a difference.
When a trauma occurs, it is crucial that care be provided within the first hour, Larkin said.
Northwest Indiana has all the right criteria for a trauma center — high traffic volume on the region's expressways and other roads, high number of factory jobs, violent crimes and other risk factors that increase demand for trauma care — but it doesn't have the money.
That's where the Indiana General Assembly comes in.
Perhaps the answer is to allow a land-based casino that could help fund a new trauma center and teaching hospital in Gary. Perhaps it's simply a matter of creating grants to help create and operate trauma centers throughout the state, then making a long-term commitment to continuing that funding.
The first step, though, is to identify gaps in the system, which is what Larkin is doing, and make sure the General Assembly sees them.