Advocates Urge More Adequate Trauma Care Funding
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Austin, Texas – Feb. 26, 2013) – Hundreds of emergency medical services and trauma advocates from across Texas met with state lawmakers and leaders today to urge adequate state funding for trauma care.
“The state’s population is growing rapidly, increasing the demand for trauma care. Appropriating only $59 million per year to support the trauma system – the same amount spent in the 2012-13 biennium – is inadequate,” said Jorie Klein, RN, chair of the Texas EMS, Trauma & Acute Care Foundation board, one of the founding organizations of the Coalition to Protect Trauma Care.
The $59 million appropriated for 2012 partially offset more than $200 million in uncompensated trauma care reported by Texas designated trauma center hospitals. Most of the unpaid costs for trauma care delivered was passed on to local taxpayers and insured patients.
The Texas Hospital Association is another founding organization of the coalition in support of using the $424.8 million in the Designated Trauma Facility and EMS Account 5111 for trauma while also increasing the yearly appropriation to reflect the approximately $133 million per year that the fund receives.
Since 2004 when the account was created and funded, some $420 million has been disbursed from the Designated Trauma Facility and EMS Account to offset more than $2 billion in uncompensated trauma care costs reported by designated trauma facilities, according to Dinah Welsh, chief executive officer of TETAF and co-chair of the coalition. “This figure does not include uncompensated trauma care costs incurred by physicians and EMS providers nor costs associated with achieving and maintaining trauma designation status,” Welsh said.
“Trauma is the leading cause of death for those 44 and under, and transportation-related injuries are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in those ages 15-64,” Klein said.
Since 2004, some 77 hospitals have become designated trauma centers, increasing access to trauma care across the state. Texas now has 265 designated trauma facilities.
“EMS gets patients to hospitals, and then within the hospital everyone works as a team. Our sole purpose is to benefit the patient,” said Klein, who is also the trauma director at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas.
Brian Eastridge, M.D., trauma medical director of University Medical Center in San Antonio, emphasized the importance of having appropriate human and equipment resources across the state, and the ability to deploy them quickly.
“Adequate funding for the trauma system is critical to have the immediate response capability and the stand-ready resources that save lives and limbs that previously were lost,” Eastridge said.
Dudley Wait, NREMT-P, EMS director for the City of Schertz, pointed out the important role of the Texas Trauma System in responding to emergencies as well as disasters and mass casualty events. “You can have the absolute best trauma centers, physicians and nurses possible, like we do all across Texas, but if you cannot get to the hospital when you are injured, the trauma care resources will never be able to make a difference for you.”
“Having an effective EMS system is almost impossible today,” said Wait, the president of the Texas Ambulance Association. “Not only do ambulances not get appropriate levels of the EMS and trauma dollars allocated to EMS, but they also must deal with ever decreasing reimbursements.”
Due to an error in the last legislative session, many ambulance providers have seen their Medicaid reimbursement, already 30 percent lower than the cost of providing an ambulance transport, reduced by as much as 30 percent during this current budget cycle. EMS needs more resources to help us do our job of saving lives,” Wait said.
EMS played a critical role in saving the life of Gerald McCombs, a former flight instructor from Fort Worth, who told his dramatic and moving story of survival. EMS and the trauma center at JPS Health Network in Fort Worth saved his life following the crash and explosion of his twin-engine training airplane two years ago. “I would not be alive today if it weren’t for the Texas Trauma System,” McCombs said.
"EMS providers, nurses and physicians are skilled professionals who respond quickly in life-or-death situations, often putting their own lives at risk," said Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), who recognized members of the Coalition to Protect Trauma Funding today on the Senate floor. "They work tirelessly every day to save lives, and we greatly appreciate their service."
“Texas needs a strong trauma system, and the Account 5111 funds should be used as intended to support the Texas Trauma System,” Welsh concluded.