Developing Level One Trauma Centers In Arkansas

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- When someone is seriously injured in Northeast Arkansas they're usually flown to the Med in Memphis.

In Arkansas there are no level one trauma centers, but lawmakers want to change that.

This is not the first time this issue has come up.  Last year legislators worked on developing a trauma center plan but it never materialized.  One main reason is because they didn't know how to pay for it.  Now lawmakers may have a funding solution.

"For a lot of Arkansans, particularly for those in the eastern part of the state, if you're in a traumatic car accident, four wheeler wreck, or have a gun shot wound you're going to be taken to the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis, Tennessee," said State House Speaker Robbie Wills.

The need for a trauma network has been felt in Arkansas for several years. 

"Right now in the state we have no way of knowing who's prepared to receive you or who's prepared to give you care and we don't have an integrated system of even knowing how to get you there," said Wills.

"For $28 million, which is the figure that is most appropriate, you'll have three level one trauma centers," said Governor Mike Beebe.

To pay the cost, it will cost smokers.  State leaders want to raise the tax on cigarettes.

"According to our figures, 50 cents would get you $73 to $71 million dollars every year," said Beebe.

Where those centers will be located is still up in the air.  Governor Beebe said one will be in the Little Rock area and another near Northeast Arkansas.

"One will be the Med in Memphis that will service a number of counties in Arkansas for which we will help pay for our patients at a fair and reasonable rate," said Beebe.

But one lawmaker doesn't think you should pay for a out-of-state hospital.  Paragould Senator Robert Thompson said he will fight to get the trauma center located here in Region 8.

"That's one of the main questions I will have and it's going to be one of the main things with sorting out the issues with the trauma center," said Thompson.

Hearings held during last year's session included discussions about why the Med should be a part of the Arkansas network.  These decisions are still being made.  With the start of the session less than a week away the issue of the trauma center is one that will be on the table.