Friday, March 23, 2007

ER in Crisis

The chances of surviving a serious car wreck in Metro Atlanta are about to decrease, according to DeKalb County’s Chief of Fire and Rescue.

Chief David Foster told 11Alive News on Thursday he is “stunned” that DeKalb Medical Center is about to drop out of Georgia’s trauma-care hospital network -- hospitals that are tasked with treating some of the most life-threatening emergencies such as car wreck injuries and gunshot wounds.

ER's make up a small percentage of the patient load in every hospital. Since a large number of the cases that land in ER are uninsured, that translates into a gaping wound where dollars flow out in care and very little returns in paid receipts.

Add to that the number of docs who are not on staff but bill separately for their services. Some report collecting as little as 50 cents on the dollar.

Foster said that his crews have been transporting about 800 trauma patients a year to DeKalb Medical Center, but after DMC drops out, “We can have additional ambulances on the street, but I can’t make the trauma center closer than it is today. So it’s going to affect our patient outcome.”

How many lives will be lost? How many outcomes will be compromised due to this closing?

A hospital spokesman emailed an unsigned statement to 11Alive News that said that the number of victims coming to DeKalb Medical Center for trauma care amounts to less than one percent of the hospital’s 110,000 ER patients every year. So the hospital decided to stop offering expensive trauma care and focus, instead, on where the greater patient demand is – treatment for illnesses and diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The ER will remain open.

Trauma patients represent less than 1% of the patient load, but the dollars spent on care is money that is mostly lost.

800 trauma patients out of 110,000 is a small number, unless you are one of the 800. Since some are not paying their share of the cost of the trauma care, that level of care will no longer be available.

The Georgia Legislature is trying to come up with millions of more dollars to expand the state trauma network to 25 or 30 hospitals, by making trauma care more affordable, creating financial incentives for hospitals such as DeKalb Medical Center and Piedmont, Northside, Wellstar and St. Joseph’s to be part of the trauma-care network.

Funding proposals have included additional fines for traffic offenses, especially those that cause traffic wrecks and injuries, since wrecks account for most trauma injuries, more than gunshots and stabbings.

That's a novel approach.

Increase the fines for speeding, reckless driving & DUI to cover the cost of trauma care.
blog comments powered by Disqus