Tuesday, July 07, 2009

TOP STORY >> Hospitals seek trauma centers

Leader senior staff writer

Three area hospitals are among several others in the state which have applied for funds from a tobacco tax that will pay for trauma care.

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, St. Vincent–North in Sherwood and White County Medical Center in Searcy are among those seeking funds for their trauma centers.

Amy Arnone, a spokesperson for North Metro, said the hospital applied for Trauma Level III designation before the July 1 deadline.

“This is the level that we fit into with regards to the qualifications set out in the trauma application,” she explained.

“The funds available for Trauma Level III designation are $125,000,” Arnone said. The hospital is supposed to receive half of this money as a one-time, lump-sum payment and the rest to be determined after the hospital is inspected by the Trauma Council, which is being assembled at this time.”

“That’s huge to area residents,” said state Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville, who voted for the tobacco tax that funds the new state trauma program.

“Any time you can provide that level of service, it only helps people in an emergency. As you go into Lonoke and White counties, there’s a gap in coverage.”

Jane English, R-North Little Rock, did not vote for the tax but says “the trauma centers are necessary.

“They will have a lot to do, but it’s important for people who live around the Jacksonville area to have somewhere to go,” English added.

“I think the trauma system will benefit the state as a whole,” said English’s predecessor in the House, Sandra Prater, a nurse who was a health-issue advocate during her terms.

She said the right level of funding would allow the hospitals to buy critical trauma equipment and perhaps fund some specialists.

State Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, said it would be a good addition for the Sherwood area to have a designated trauma facility within the community.

Sixty Arkansas hospitals have applied for the funds, which will come from the 56-cent per-pack tax increase enacted by the legislature earlier this year. The state’s cigarette tax is now $1.15 per pack.

The deadline to apply for the money recently passed. The tax is expected to gross about $20 million during the first year. The state Health Department hopes to have some of the money to hospitals by October.

Health Department spokesman Ed Barham says the funding will help medical authorities save lives and improve care for people who don’t die after being injured.