Doctors Say Statewide Trauma Center Needed For Rural Emergencies

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - There are 14 states that do not have a system that provides an organized method for routing critically injured people to the closest appropriate trauma center, according to physicians.

Kentucky is one of them, according to the Kentucky chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, which is trying to spur creation of a such a system.

The group estimates the death rate from unintentional injury is 50 percent higher in rural areas than in cities. The physicians said after a Thursday meeting in Frankfort, that's at least in part because of the long distance people have to travel to get trauma care. The group said that's a major issue, considering that trauma is the leading cause of death in people ages 1-35 in Kentucky and nationally.

More than 100 doctors, nurses and other emergency medical workers gathered yesterday in Frankfort for a meeting about how to promote House Bill 152. The bill would establish an Office of Trauma Care within the state Department for Public Health.

"Trauma is not on people's radar screens," said Dr. Andrew Bernard, a trauma surgeon at the University of Kentucky. He said Kentucky needs more Level III trauma centers, in places like Pikeville, Hazard, Somerset, Owensboro, Ashland and Paducah. "The vast majority of trauma patients don't need a Level I trauma center," Bernard said, adding that they could be well managed at regional trauma hospitals, keeping patients closer to home and minimizing travel time.

The measure calls for a start on development of a state-wide system that would include a registry to track injuries, how quickly they were treated and where. Similar legislation has failed to be approved in past years.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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