State's trauma network improves but needs more leadership, according to audit

Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 8:22 PM
Last updated 11:20 PM
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ATLANTA — The state’s network of specialized trauma-care facilities has grown and taken on a greater share of emergency patients, according to a recent state review which also warned that lack of leadership has prevented more progress.

A report by the Depart­ment of Audits and Accounts for the House Appropriations Committee released Friday, stated that 52 percent
of emergency patients are treat­ed by trauma centers, up from 49 percent five years ago.

It also reported that the number of designated trauma centers rose from 15 in 2007 to 21, reversing projections that lack of funding was forcing several hospitals to close their centers.

Since 2010, they have received about $15 million per year in fines from the Super Speeder program, which penalizes highway drivers for going more than 20 mph over the speed limit.

Voters defeated a measure that year that would have added a $10 fee to car tags to fund the network with another $80 million annually.

In many parts of Georgia, there is no Level I or II trauma center nearby. Residents of Brunswick, for example, are more than 50 miles from Shands Medical Center in Jacksonville, Fla., or Memorial Health in Savannah, Ga.

Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics in Augusta is a Level I regional trauma center that covers 13 counties.

“There is currently no strategic plan for the desired number and type of trauma centers and where they should be located, though the (Georgia Trauma Care Network) Commission intends to have criteria in place by June 2013,” the auditors wrote.

In addition to criticizing the lack of a strategic plan, the report also said emergency care suffers from muddled leadership. The existence of the commission and the state Office of Emergency Medical Service and Trauma creates confusion because they have overlapping authority and do not share data, the auditors note.

“For example, though the commission is responsible for studying trauma care services and OEMST houses useful data on trauma center and EMS activities, we noted that the entities have not collaborated to develop a performance improvement plan for the state’s trauma system. The commission plans to have a performance measurement program in place by June 2014,” the auditors wrote.

They also recommended ample funding to strengthen the network in areas of greatest need.

Rep. Terry England, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said flu has prevented him from digesting the auditors’ report. He could not say whether legislation would address funding or the overlapping responsibilities.


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