Trauma center answers are not yet clear
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
by SouthtownStar editorial staff
We understand the outrage and the charges that we in the
Southland are again forgotten, underserved and second class. The
fact that the entire Southland is served by just one Level 1 trauma
center seems absurd. The numerical designation means the highest level
of emergency medical care at a hospital, one capable of responding to
the most severe and serious wounds and injuries.
In a region filled with interstate highways and, sadly, plagued with
too much street violence in some of its towns, the need for such a
trauma center is real. In 2009, the region's one such center, Christ
Medical Center in Oak Lawn, handled about 3,000 trauma cases - largely
resulting from traffic crashes, shootings and stabbings from across the
Patients came as well from Northwest Indiana, from cities such as
Hammond and Gary. With that state's closest Level 1 trauma center being
in Indianapolis, our neighbors to the east are similarly devoid of
top-flight trauma care.
This has left Christ Medical Center scrambling to provide the
critical and expensive emergency services to at least two major
population areas. While Christ officials have embraced the challenge and
provided excellent care, the geographic difficulty of funneling
Southland patients to Oak Lawn as they suffer life-threatening injuries
is great cause for concern.
The problem, of course, is money. More particularly, a lack of it at
any public level to bring expanded trauma care to the Southland.
The Cook County Health and Hospitals System recently did an analysis
of the availability of trauma care in the Southland that proposes
implementing a trauma center at an existing hospital, such as Ingalls
Memorial in Harvey or South Suburban in Hazel Crest. But the high cost
of such care makes that option unlikely. The analysis called for $81,000
to further look into the disparity of care, a proposal the county
health system's chief executive, William Foley, is taking under
advisement, a system spokesman said.
We're not sure precisely what this means, but if it seeks to prove
that this lack of trauma care is tied to race or poverty, we know
already that it does.
What we want is more clear facts on what the tradeoffs are and what
proof we have that more money might fix it. A deep quantitative analysis
that looks at outcome, what patients need what care and how fast - and
how best to get them there - makes sense. But the argument that "we
deserve one" won't find us the money, even if it's true. That's the case
in most of Northwest Indiana, where poor and rich and white and black
all get sent to Illinois.
We realize that a key component to the quality of life in the
Southland is access to excellent medical care, including critical,
life-saving care. That's why we need more data, more clear answers. This
should not, must not, be a case of "build it and they will come."
With a new health care system brewing in America, there are too many
unknowns when it comes to the costs, risks and rewards of hospital care.
We salute those activists who keep this issue at the forefront, but we
know the money pool is finite. We need more answers before we pluck more
money from the wallets of the people of Cook County.