Originally printed in Pine Pluff Commercial. Tuesday, January 6, 2009
By Erin France

Jefferson Regional Medical Center, like many other hospitals in Arkansas, already treats victims of trauma.

Dr. Charles Mabry, a Jefferson Regional Medical Center general surgeon and member of the state’s Trauma Advisory Council, speaks about the logistics of a statewide trauma system. Special to The Commercial/Kevin McKnight.

Unlike the majority of states, Arkansas does not have a trauma system.

Legislators, physicians, nurses, emergency responders and residents met at the hospital Monday as part of a round of statewide talks on instituting a trauma system.

“We don’t really think of trauma as a disease process,” said Dr. Charles Mabry, a general surgeon at Jefferson Regional Medical Center and member of the state’s Trauma Advisory Council. “It has a true impact.”

A trauma system consists of four levels of care which link together to provide up-to-date, accurate information on specialists and beds available at different locations.

Ideally, Mabry said he would like to see Arkansas with two to three Level 1 centers, seven to 11 Level 2 centers and eight to 12 Level 3 centers.

JRMC likely would be best suited for a Level 2 trauma center, Mabry said.

Level 2 can provide complete care and 24-hour availability of specialists, personnel and equipment. Level 1 provides the highest level of surgical care, while levels 3 and 4 offer less in the way of special surgeons, but can stabilize a patient and effectively transport them if needed.

A trauma system was discussed during the 2007 legislative cycle, but funding the enterprise is the subject of much  debate.

The cost of implementing a system for the state is estimated at anywhere from $25 million to $35 million, though that would not include incentives for hospitals to join the program, said District 25 Rep. Gene Shelby of Hot Springs.

He said he would like to see funding come from a cigarette tax, and estimated that a 50 cent increase per pack could raise $86 million.

“That’s a very conservative estimate,” he said.

District 23 Sen. Jerry Taylor of Pine Bluff, a former Pine Bluff mayor, said he would like to see another source of income, possibly supplemental to the tobacco tax.

“You need at least a stable source of income,” he said. Taylor said he was interested in a possible surcharge on automobile insurance per policy sold, a funding option which was discussed during the last legislative session.

Bob Atkinson, president and chief operating officer of JRMC, said it’s an important move for Arkansas to institute a trauma system.

“For the people we have, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

As far as bringing the hospital to Level 2 standards, it already has many things in place that fit the criteria, Atkinson said, although there would be some staffing hurdles.

“The availability of the specialists would be a key point for us,” he said.

Still, the Trauma Advisory Council estimated that about 200 lives could be saved per year with a trauma system, and the chance to improve care is worth the funding and time, Atkinson said.

“We’re a trauma center already,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re not a part of a system though.”

The Governor’s Trauma Advisory Council is visiting different areas of the state soliciting support for the funding of a Trauma System.

Date:              Friday, January 16, 2008 (Rescheduled from December 15th)

Time:             1:00 p.m.

Location:     St. Bernards Auditorium
505 East Washington Ave.
Jonesboro, AR  72401