NWI needs a trauma center 

Nov 15

That could save area residents' lives.

Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary is attempting to become a Level 2 trauma center. Becoming certified by the American College of Surgeons for that level of care means having an operating room promptly available and an on-call staff response time of 15 minutes.

A Level 1 trauma center is staffed with specialists around the clock and admits at least 1,200 trauma patients a year.

Methodist estimates abut 25 percent of its emergency department visits are trauma cases.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, has been working for years to bring a trauma center and teaching hospital to the region. It makes sense to incorporate this into the new hospital Methodist needs in order to replace its existing facility in Gary.

The region's crime rate, especially in northern Lake County, makes it the logical choice for the site of a trauma center.

"It only makes sense to have a hospital near a location that is easily accessible and where there's the highest number of penetrating incidents," said Dr. Michael McGee, chief medical director of emergency medicine at Methodist Hospitals.

Penetrating trauma includes gunshots, stabbings or other injuries that pierce the skin.

In 2007 and 2008, more than half of Methodist's severe trauma patients were the victims of gunshots or stabbings. And lives involving serious medical situations throughout Northwest Indiana could resut in a good outcome if a trauma center were but minutes away instead of having to transport patients to Chicago.

There are several trauma centers elsewhere in Indiana. Why not in Northwest Indiana?

Funding a trauma center is costly because of the number of specialists and other personnel needed on short notice, but how much is a life saved worth?

McGee estimates a Level 2 trauma center in Gary would cost $6 million to $8 million.

State assistance will be necessary to help pay that cost. Methodist can't foot that bill by itself. A plan to do so stalled in the Indiana Senate this year; however, that failed plan to increase certain fees to help pay for trauma centers is a concept worth exploring,

"This is how most states pay for their trauma centers. They all have some sort of way to fund their trauma systems," McGee said. "Indiana is one of about two states of the 50 states without trauma coordination."

That's a dismal statistic.

Indiana is experiencing tremendous financial strain, but supporting trauma centers is a vital need.

Indiana must begin to subsidize trauma centers to protect Hoosiers' lives, especially in Northwest Indiana, which doesn't have a trauma center yet.

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