Lack Of Statewide Trauma Care System Killing Kentuckians

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Rural parts of Kentucky lack hospitals that can adequately handle trauma cases, and the problem is so bad that according to one expert hundreds are dying that might otherwise be saved, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

In fact, reports the C-J, only three of the state's 126 hospitals are designated as trauma centers, and Kentucky -- which had more than 4,000 trauma cases in 2006 -- is one of 14 states without an organized trauma system. Doctors say that puts all residents at risk.

Trauma systems are designed to get injured patients the care they need as quickly as possible within a "golden hour" in which survival is more likely. In states with trauma systems, more hospitals are encouraged to develop certain levels of expertise, paramedics and emergency medical technicians are trained in where to take patients, medical professionals coordinate services and a registry tracks trends, reports The Courier-Journal.

"Trauma is the most expensive disease in America today -- $80 billion a year. It is the leading cause of death in patients under 44. And the most effective treatment we know for this today is developing a trauma system," said Dr. Wayne Meredith, medical director of trauma programs for the American College of Surgeons. "It's as effective as the law requiring seatbelts."

The Kentucky Hospital Association and many local physicians are pushing the legislature to establish a trauma system. Rep. Bob DeWeese, a Louisville Republican and doctor, plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session, reports the C-J.

The proposal faces obstacles -- legislators wary of spending the millions it would require, rural hospitals concerned about the costs of becoming trauma centers and already-overburdened rural doctors worried that their on-call workloads would increase.

But Jamie King argues that if Kentucky doesn't get a trauma system, the cost will continue to be measured in human lives, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal.

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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