State Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, is co-sponsoring a trauma care funding proposal in an effort to maintain and expand Georgia’s trauma care center network. The amendment is also supported by area state representatives Ron Stephens, R-Garden City, and Al Williams, D-Midway, and Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Scott Kroell.
If approved by the General Assembly, the senate resolution (SR 140) could appear on the November 2012 ballot, according to the Ballotpedia website. The resolution proposes setting aside $10 from each license tag fee collected into a trauma trust fund.
Along with Carter, state senators Greg Goggans, R-Douglas; Cecil Staton, R-Macon; Renee Unterman, R-Buford; Bill Jackson, R-Appling; and Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, are sponsoring the amendment. Last year, Carter supported a similar measure, which called for an additional $10 fee on vehicle registrations to be dedicated solely to funding trauma care. According to Ballotpedia.org, the fee could have raised $80 million toward trauma care. The referendum failed to pass last November in a 53-47 percent vote.
“Based on the outcome it was evident many voters saw (last year’s funding proposal) as more of a tax increase and did not trust the government with more of their money which I can understand,” Goggans said in a news release. “But at the same time, many of those same voters recognize the urgent need of strengthening our trauma network and want an effective solution to address it. I’ve often said trauma care is expensive, but not having trauma care is more expensive because it costs lives. The $10 that will go solely to trauma funding equates to less than 3 cents a day for every person in the state. You cannot put a price on the value of a life, but 3 cents a day is a great deal for potentially life-saving trauma care.”
“One of the good exercises we are going through during this economic downturn is to set our priorities,” Carter said. “And in my mind, trauma care is a priority.”
“I’m inclined to support the proposal because of our desperate need for trauma care,” Williams said. “I’m open to anything; it sounds like a viable option. I’ve heard about 700 people die each year due to a lack of trauma care in the state.”
“Pretty much any mechanism that comes out that creates trauma funding is one I support,” Stephens said. “The (proposal) is not creating new money; it is taking money that’s already there.”
Stephens said Georgia’s existing trauma care network needs to be financially stabilized.
“It’s only a matter of time when those in the trauma care network start dropping out,” he said. “They won’t be able to afford to keep them open; it’s voluntary.”
Stephens said the super speeder bill of a few years ago didn’t generate the amount of trauma care funding hoped for by legislators.
“I support the measure,” Kroell said. “Level 1 trauma centers, like Memorial, need financial support to continue to provide trauma services. We need more Level 1 trauma providers, but more importantly, we need to support the providers we have now.”
Carter said it is estimated at least 10 more trauma care centers are needed in Georgia.
Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah is the only Level 1 trauma care center in South Georgia, he added. There are only four Level 1 trauma care centers in the state, according to Ballotpedia.org.
“We’re very fortunate to have (Memorial), and we want to make sure it stays there,” Carter said.
Goggans said the Interstate 75 corridor between Macon and the Florida border is often referred to as the “Corridor of Death” due to a lack of sufficient trauma care. Also, Goggans stated more than 1 million Georgians live 50 miles distant from a Level 1 trauma center which puts them at risk of dying in the first “golden hour” after suffering a traumatic injury.
“In metro Atlanta, one fatality occurs in every 339 accidents,” he said. “In rural Georgia that number is one fatality in every 74 accidents.”