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In reviewing an article published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on January 25, 2009, I found the article informative and a must read for residents and visitors of Arkansas.

The article states that in 2006, an estimated 15,000 Arkansans died from injuries and 6,000 suffered permanent disabilities because of the lack of a trauma system. Arkansas as a largely rural state has residents and visitors who regularly drive long distances between cities. That means there is a larger chance of more accidents in remote areas that take longer for emergency personnel to respond and to transport the injured to the proper facility.

Arkansas has the third-highest motor vehicle death rate in the country at 25 deaths per 100,000 people annually, compared to the national average of 15.2 per 100,000. This information was obtained through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the article, Governor Mike Beebe is pushing for $88 million in tobacco- and cigarette-tax increase to benefit 23 health care programs, including $25 million for the trauma system.

Arkansas is the only state without a trauma center.

Hospitals can be certified as Level I through Level IV trauma centers based on the level of emergency care they can provide. Level I centers provide the highest level of care and must have a variety of specialists and surgeons on hand to care for patients. The risk of death is reduced by 25% if the patient receives care at a Level I trauma center, according to the American College of Surgeons.

In a trauma system, hospitals have to meet set standards for care and staffing, and a communications system would link hospitals and emergency responders statewide. This would ensure that trauma patients are taken from the accident scene directly to the closest facility best able to treat their specific injuries.

Currently, State law requires ambulance drivers to take patients to the closest emergency room which may not have the specialists available to treat a particular patient. Patients are then transferred to another hospital if needed. This is what a trauma system would help prevent, wasted time.

Update: On February 17, 2009, Governor Mike Beebe signed into law a 59-cent cigarette tax increase, and an increase in the sales tax of other tobacco products from 32% to 68%. This money will be used to fund the 23 health care programs and the trauma system mentioned earlier in the article.

This post written by: Leona Crowe, Legal Assistant to Sach Oliver

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