published Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

New trauma patient care plan coming in North Georgia

AREA COUNTIES UNDER NEW PLAN

Catoosa

Chattooga

Dade

Fannin

Floyd

Gilmer

Gordon

Murray

Pickens

Walker

Whitfield

A plan to significantly improve the care of trauma patients in the 16-county Northwest Georgia region will be unveiled Thursday in Calhoun, public health officials said Tuesday.

There are 10 emergency management services regions in Georgia, and this one has a unique set of challenges, said David Foster, Region 1 Georgia Office of EMS and Trauma program director.

"We're the only region that borders three states -- Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina -- and three EMS regions," he said. With that complication in mind, planners are meeting with representatives of hospitals, ambulance services and other stakeholders from those areas, he said.

Many of the weaknesses of the state's current trauma care system involve access to higher-level trauma centers and access from some rural areas to any trauma center, Foster said. The goal of the new plan is "getting our patients to the right facility in the right amount of time," he said.

Georgia's Region 1 has two trauma centers -- Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton and Floyd Medical Center in Rome, both Level 2 facilities. The closest Level 1 trauma centers, those best equipped to handle trauma cases and the destinations for the most severely injured patients, are Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga and three facilities in Atlanta, Foster said.

He said the "very comprehensive" plan considers pediatric care, air transfers, communications links and other aspects of emergency services. A key part of the plan, he said, involves the Georgia Trauma Communications Center in Forsyth, which will be able to display all service lines available at all area hospitals.

That means, for example, that an emergency services provider who wanted to transport a patient to Erlanger hospital could know before putting that patient aboard a helicopter whether Erlanger personnel still were dealing with a backup of patients from a major accident elsewhere, Foster said.

Logan Boss, a spokesman for Northwest Georgia Public Health, said a statewide amendment that failed two years ago would have added $10 to annual vehicle registrations to bring faster and better trauma care to injured Georgians, many of whom live 50 miles or more from a hospital designated as a trauma center.

"So it became even more critical for the state to try to improve trauma care on a regional basis, which is what the new Region 1 trauma system plan does," Boss said.

Representatives of emergency medical service providers, hospitals and other interested parties are expected to be present for the plan announcement, set for 10 a.m. at Trinity Baptist Church, 1170 Rome Road Southwest in Calhoun.

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