Meeting at Trinity Baptist Church in Calhoun, the RTAC discussed the 56-page plan, which will “will provide leadership regarding the care of trauma patients within the region and across regional and state boundaries where appropriate.”
Under the state’s plan to create a trauma care system, 10 regions across Georgia will implement trauma plans with the overarching goal of providing trauma care to every patient in the state, Region 1 RTAC Coordinator Mike Willingham said.
“All of us know traumatic injuries are a problem in Georgia, and the lack of a trauma system is a problem in Georgia, we all know that. ... Even though trauma represents a small number of our total emergencies, you guys will agree it takes up a bigger pool of the money that it costs to treat that group of people,” Willingham said in his overview of the plan.
According to the Region 1 RTAC plan, “Each region will represent a trauma service area, which will accommodate overlapping and traditional patient catchment areas and incorporate statewide EMS regional infrastructure. The Region 1 plan will organize existing resources to provide a comprehensive trauma care system to care for patients from the moment of injury through rehabilitation.
“This plan will address both urban and rural concerns. Rural trauma care is complicated by issues associated with geographic isolation, including, but not limited to, time from injury to discovery, extrication issues, distance to immediate healthcare as well as local healthcare resource availability.”
Northwest Georgia’s Region 1 is comprised of 16 counties and spans 5,439 square miles, serving a population of 1,105,044. Included in the region are Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker and Whitfield counties.
The RTAC’s goals under the plan are to reduce the number of preventable deaths, improve outcomes from traumatic injury and reduce medical costs through appropriate use of resources.
During Thursday’s meeting, officials heard from various committees, including Children’s Hospital at Erlanger’s Joel Dishroon, EMT and paramedic.
Dishroon said Tennessee had begun working on a plan similar to Georgia’s in 1986. With a focus on the children’s trauma care, he said Georgia was lacking.
“Y’all’ve got a lot of work to do on the pediatric side,” he said, adding that Erlanger and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are the only top-level pediatric trauma centers close to Region 1.
Bartow Emergency Medical Services Director Larry Owens said the main goal of the plan is to get patients to the correct facility, which can result in fewer deaths from traumatic injuries.
“Just like what we saw in the meeting here, if we get the patient, triage them correctly, get them to the right trauma center or the right hospital, we have a 25 percent better survival rate for that patient, so getting that patient to the right hospital is most critical,” he said.
Bartow EMS employees, who operate six advanced life support ambulances from five stations around the county, are prepared for just such situations, Owens said.
“My medics, which is Bartow EMS, these medics have extensive training in trauma, so they know when to fly them out and when not to,” he said. “Here again, flying them out
depends on the level of their condition, weather conditions, traffic conditions — because traffic is a big problem especially when we have to go to a level 1, which would be like Grady or Atlanta Medical Center or Erlanger.”
Inside Region 1, 14 hospitals are listed as participating facilities, with only two — Floyd Medical Center and Dalton’s Hamilton Medical Center — maintaining any trauma designation. Both are level 2 trauma centers.
Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, which is in Region 3, is a level 2 facility. Additional participating hospitals for Region 1 also include level 1, or the highest level, trauma centers at Erlanger, Children’s Hospital at Erlanger and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta.
The plan, which will be sent to the Georgia Trauma Commission today, is expected to be approved at the commission’s annual retreat and workshop Jan. 24-25 at Floyd Medical Center in Rome.
For more information on the Georgia Trauma Commission, visit www.georgiatraumacommission.org.