Dr. Mike Ragain: Texas Trauma Hospitals Deserve State Funding

(Lubbock – March 10, 2017) Every year, nearly 130,000 Texans experience a traumatic injury. These are potentially life-threatening injuries stemming from motor vehicle crashes, industrial accidents, gunshot wounds, assaults and falls.

130,000 Texans.

That’s enough to fill every single seat in Jones AT&T stadium twice.

Each of these individuals has a family, a job, friends, a life story.

One of these individuals is well known to the Lubbock community because of the lifesaving care he received at our Level 1 trauma center as he recovered from a gunshot wound sustained in the line of duty. In January 2015, police Sgt. Houston Gass responded to a domestic disturbance in his hometown of Pampa and was shot in the face. He was stabilized at a local hospital and life flighted to UMC, where he ultimately had 15 surgeries, post-operative care and rehabilitation treatment over two years. At just 36 years old, Gass had started a family and was in the prime of his career.

Gass’ life story could’ve ended that day in Pampa. But because of UMC Lubbock’s Level 1 trauma center, it instead began a new chapter. It may not have been the chapter Gass thought he would write, but ultimately, it was one of recovery, healing, compassion and second chances. Today, Gass is back to work and back with his wife and children.

There are 290 hospitals in Texas designated as specialty trauma facilities. This means they have the equipment, staff and resources necessary to provide specialty care to trauma injury victims.

This care is provided without question, without hesitation and with compassion to every single trauma patient who comes through their doors. Because it’s what Texas trauma hospitals do. It’s why they exist.

And they deserve support.

Each year, Texas trauma hospitals report more than $300 million in annual trauma care costs that are not covered by third-party health insurance. At UMC Lubbock alone, our uncompensated trauma care costs exceeded $27 million in 2016. This isn’t too surprising given the large number of Texans who don’t have health insurance. And trauma does not discriminate. It affects the insured and uninsured alike.

Since 2003, the state has provided funding from a dedicated trauma account to help offset some of these costs. But, right now, the Texas Legislature is meeting in Austin and is considering at least three proposals that would eliminate the main source of funding for our trauma hospitals. Without these funds, fewer hospitals could maintain their trauma level designation, and fewer Texans in fewer communities would have access to lifesaving care when and where they need it.

Gass is just one of the many patients whose lives have been changed because of trauma. Texas trauma hospitals are committed to making sure that every trauma patient has the opportunity for a second chance that Gass had.

Continuing state funding for Texas trauma hospitals is critical because while our challenges are primarily financial, the impact is personal.

Dr. Mike Ragain is senior vice president and chief medical officer for University Medical Center Health System in Lubbock.

Published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal