From now through the Nov. 2 election day, you will see and hear a lot about Ballot Amendment 2. This is a $10 car tag fee to help fund the formation of a statewide trauma network and stabilize Georgia’s trauma care system. Specifically, Georgia voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the following:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10 trauma charge on certain passenger motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?
As president and CEO of Memorial University Medical Center (MUMC), home of southeast Georgia’s only Level 1 trauma center, you would expect me to tell you why should vote “yes” on this important initiative. But, first, let me share a story that will make it abundantly clear why Georgia needs an improved trauma system.
Several months ago, I had the pleasure to meet Ed Bradley. Ed is a well-respected business and community leader in Claxton. But, his most fulfilling role is that of devoted husband and father. He has a lovely wife, DeAnna, and is father to three wonderful children — Benjamin, Genevieve, and George.
Nearly two years ago, Ed’s family was impacted by a traumatic accident that no one could have predicted. While playing at her grandparents’ home on the day after Thanksgiving, his daughter was seriously injured when a grandfather clock that had been there for years toppled onto her.
Genevieve was taken to the local hospital, where they contacted LifeStar to fly her to Memorial’s Level 1 trauma center. Unfortunately, the helicopter could not fly due to poor weather conditions, so she was brought to Savannah by ambulance. The physician at the hospital told Ed and
DeAnna that their young daughter might not survive the trip.
Upon arrival in Savannah, Genevieve was treated by Dr. Gage Ochsner, chief of trauma services, and our expert trauma team at Memorial. She spent weeks at MUMC, recovering from the serious head injuries she sustained. Today, she is fully recovered and is a happy, beautiful little girl.
And, Ed Bradley is a thankful daddy who knows first hand why it is important for all Georgians to have access to outstanding trauma care.
If approved, the fee will raise about $80 million per year for trauma care in Georgia. It could help increase the number of Level 1 and rural trauma centers in our state. Currently, only 16 of Georgia’s 152 hospitals are trauma centers. This is half of the national average for a state our size. Most important, this bill could help save 700 lives every year.
Traumatic injuries are the No. 1 cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 44. In Georgia, deaths from traumatic injuries are 20 percent higher than the national average. This is because access to trauma care is severely limited.
There are no risk factors, symptoms or cures for trauma. It can strike any person, at any time. It can occur when a tire blows out on I-95. It can happen when a child darts into a road. It can even occur at work, as we learned from the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion. After a traumatic injury, the chance of survival increases dramatically if the person receives appropriate medical care within the first 60 minutes — the “golden hour.”
Think about the people you know and love, and consider whether you would spend $10 to save their lives. Please take the time to vote yes on Nov. 2 and encourage others to do the same.
Phillip S. Schaengold, J.D., MBA
is the president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health.