The Med in Memphis Gives Arkansas an Ultimatum

March 25, 2006 - Posted at 8:41 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR_The Med in Memphis is the only level one trauma center in the Mid-South. Arkansas sends the Med a quarter of their trauma patients, but we haven't been footing the bill and it's put the Med in a bind. A few weeks ago, the Med gave Arkansas an ultimatum. Either start paying for the uninsured patients being treated in Tennessee... or create our own trauma center, in our own state.

Denny Sumpter, State Representative for Crittenden County says, "Every minute that clicks by is a minute that could either save your life or your life be lost." The chance of each Arkansan being able to get trauma care when needed... is diminishing. "Arkansas is the only state that doesn't have a Level One Trauma Center and one of three that doesn't have a trauma network set up", says Sumpter.

Dr. David Pyle is the Vice President of Medical Affairs at St. Bernards Medical Center. He says it's time for Arkansas to step up to the plate, stop depending on the Med in Memphis and start providing trauma care, here in our own state. "In Arkansas, we lost about 2100 patients last year to trauma and about 25 thousand others were hospitalized with trauma," says Pyle.

You may think that if you're traumatically injured in a car accident, getting to the closest hospital would be the best plan... that's not always the case. Most trauma injuries are not treatable at your local emergency room. "You really need specialized capabilities that you don't have at a general community hospital and we need resources to be able to send those patients out," said Pyle.

And currently, Arkansas doesn't even have a plan to get you where you need to be to save your life. "We have no trauma system so we have no mechanism to pay for trauma patients. If the patients have insurance, that's great, but a significant portion of trauma patients have no resources to pay for their trauma," says Pyle.

And it's the funding that's causing the problem with this piece of legislation. The House voted to fund the network by allowing judges to levy additional fines in traffic violations and drunk driving convictions, but the Senate has a different plan. They proposed adding 12 dollars a year for each insured car in Arkansas... despite warnings that Governor Beebe won't support this funding plan.

"That plan would use the existing infrastructure and hospitals, emergency rooms, ambulance providers that we already have and would get this network set-up," said Sumpter. A trauma network that if not created this legislative session... you cost you your life.

Sumpter says, "When you're sitting there and it's your loved one that's gasping for their last breath of air and you know the helicopter's on the way, you're not going to care how we raised this money or how we funded it. All you're going to care about it that helicopter's coming and they're getting you to the Jonesboro Level 2 Trauma Center, or to the UAMS Level 1 Trauma Center, or that if you're on this side of the state that The Med is going to take you in."

The bill would raise about 25 million dollars a year for the network, coupled with matching federal dollars, it would in total raise 40 million dollars a year to create a trauma system in Arkansas.