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our view SE Texas must have trauma care funding

December 23, 2018

Southeast Texas has great hospitals and health care, but there is one thing this region lacks: A Level II trauma facility, one that has a trauma surgeon and support staff available 24 hours a day. State Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, is determined to end that disparity in the new session of the Legislature that begins Jan. 8, and this effort deserves the support of every state representative and senator who covers this region.

This is not a simple matter of keeping up with the Joneses, getting this facility just because bigger cities like Houston and Dallas have one. Only two major populated areas of the state lack this kind of vital health care — Southeast Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. Phelan and representatives from that region will be teaming up to change that for the people they represent.

A hospital with a trauma surgeon available 24 hours a day, seven days a week can provide invaluable treatment to patients with severe injuries, usually to the brain or head. In many cases, the first hour of a patient’s injury is crucial. If the victim gets appropriate care within that “golden hour,” his or her chances of survival are greatly enhanced.

But if someone in Southeast Texas has to wait for a helicopter or ambulance to take them to Houston before they are treated properly, they could die or suffer permanent brain damage.

It does not matter which local hospital is designated for this status, but Christus Hospital-St. Elizabeth in Beaumont is closest — a Level III trauma facility with three trauma surgeons on staff. Its standard of care is excellent, but the facility’s staffing is not always 24/7. Upgrading to a Level II facility with adding some support resources and positions would address that need.

As usual, cost is a factor. Phelan and the Valley representatives will be seeking state funding to set up Level II facilities for 12 to 18 months. Then, after the facilities have been established and certified, they would be eligible for more money from state and federal health care providers for services rendered. This would allow these facilities to become self-sufficient and even pay back some of the startup costs to the state.

Taxpayers from Southeast Texas and the Valley — and the entire state — are already partially subsidizing Level I trauma facilities in large cities because those sites are teaching institutions as well. If we are helping to pay for facilities in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, other Texas taxpayers can help us, too.

Southeast Texas has an interstate highway running through it, dozens of industrial facilities and more than its share of bad weather. The people who live here and travel through need a Level II trauma facility that can save them in a serious accident.

This coming year must see that facility established here. It must be a priority for the region’s representatives and every member of the House and Senate who demand the very best health care for Texas.

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