Every year, millions of Georgia drivers engage in a behavior almost as risky as texting or talking on their cell phones. And they may not even know it — until it’s too late.
These drivers aren’t speeding through a construction zone or darting through traffic at rush hour. They are simply traveling through one of Georgia’s many “dead zones” — areas that are too far from the medical care they need to survive a serious accident.
Hundreds lose their lives each year as a result. Without action, hundreds more will follow suit.
A decade into the 21st century, Georgia has just 15 trauma centers — hospitals with the surgeons, specialists and technology needed to treat patients with life-threatening injuries sustained on the highway, in the workplace or at home.
These centers are scattered across the state, leaving huge gaps in between. In fact, over 1 million Georgians now live 50, 75 or even 100 miles from the nearest trauma center. Add to that those who travel through our state each day and even more people are outside of the critical 60-minute window — the “golden hour” — immediately following injury, during which a patient must receive appropriate care to avoid disability or death.
This shortage of trauma centers overburdens the 15 that exist today, which together treat more than 10,000 cases a year. It strains the coffers of the cities and counties that are helping those 15 centers stay afloat. And it makes businesses think twice about locating where employees can’t get the care they need in the event of an emergency at home, at work, or traveling between.
But suppose we could purchase an insurance policy that would provide the equipment and personnel to help more hospitals become trauma centers; help existing trauma centers stay afloat; and connect them all together, ensuring appropriate care if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured. What would you be willing to contribute for that peace of mind?
How about $10 a year? A bill currently before the Georgia House of Representatives — Senate Resolution 277 — would let Georgians vote in November on a $10 tag fee on personal and commercial vehicles that could raise the necessary funds.
Poll after poll has shown that Georgia residents and employers believe this is a small price to pay for their safety and health and that of their workers. The bill carries the endorsement of Georgia’s leading hospitals, doctors and emergency service providers, and it passed the Senate by a bipartisan 48-8 margin in 2009.
Only a few days remain in the 2010 legislative session, but there is still time to act upon this important measure. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce stands with Georgia’s health care providers, employers and citizens, and urges the House to pass SR 277 this year.
George Israel, a former mayor of Macon, is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.