On November 2nd, Georgians will vote on Amendment 2 to lock-in the assurance of access to trauma care in every corner of our state. Voters must determine if it’s worth adding less than three- cents- a- day to the cost of our vehicle tags to develop a statewide trauma care network accessible to all Georgians, no matter where they travel, work or live when their critical injury occurs. Voting for Amendment 2 will ensure this level of life saving trauma center coverage is no accident and is available for much less than many motorists pay now for a vanity tag.
Currently, Georgia has only sixteen trauma centers located around the state. That may sound like a lot but only four of these are designated as Level 1 Trauma Centers, designed to handle the very worst of life- threatening injuries. Living in the largest state east of the Mississippi River, this means Georgia victims of serious injuries are 20-percent more likely to die than the national average for similar injuries.
Why? Because trauma care centers can’t save the lives of people who don’t get to them in time. Physicians know there’s a critical window of just 60-minutes after a serious injury for adults to get life-saving care. They call it “the Golden Hour.” And for children, that window lasts only 30 minutes. Sadly, under the current system, time under “the Golden Hour” has run out far too often to give the chance of life for many of our family, friends, and neighbors who have experienced trauma first hand.
Amendment 2 would connect Georgia’s lifesaving trauma care funding to vehicle tag fees because that’s where more than half of Georgia’s trauma injuries occur: drivers and passengers involved in vehicle crashes. The rest come from accidents in the work place, and farm and home injuries.
Amendment 2 ensures funding is available to develop a trauma care network that’s accessible to all Georgians, no matter where the injury occurs. Most Georgians don’t realize that current data shows you or your family members are more than twice as likely to die from a crash injury if it occurs more than 25 miles from a trauma center. In this day and age, the consequence of a vehicle crash injury should not be death or disabilities that last a lifetime. We know it’s access to trauma care that will impact that outcome. Access to trauma care will change the equation and save lives in Georgia.
Georgia’s economic development and jobs creation can also benefit from statewide access to adequate trauma care. It’s a fact that businesses are more likely to locate where employees and their families can be assured of timely access to emergency health care. The same is true for many retirees who live with potential life threatening medical conditions and require the assurance of reliable emergency trauma care response before they can relocate to otherwise attractive regions of Georgia. This means some parts of Georgia which should be growing jobs will not be able to reach their true economic potential when Georgia needs it most. Access to trauma care equals jobs.
Amendment 2 also ensures the funds collected would not go to the general fund or run the risk of being spent for unintended purposes. Just like Georgia Lottery funds designated for education, Amendment 2 if approved would designate and therefore ensure trauma funds are spent only on the trauma care network.
This much we can predict: Serious injuries will continue to occur in Georgia irrespective of how we vote. However, the long term consequence of those injuries will depend on whether access to trauma care is available to our injured. If a statewide trauma care network is unavailable, the cost will certainly be higher and paid for by all of us in higher insurance premiums and public health care costs.
On November 2nd, Amendment 2 is a question for all of us who own a car and live in Georgia Isn’t it worth just three cents a day to help build a network that ensures every trauma injury gets acute care within “the golden hour”; thereby saving lives and preventing long term disability? If not, these become lifelong costs we must all absorb. So the Amendment 2 question really comes down to this: Do I want to pay a little for trauma care now or a whole lot later? Given the importance of statewide emergency care response to us all, no one should learn the answer by accident.
(Dallas directs the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety)