Apr 30, 2013 9:00 AM

Author: University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs


A little more than two weeks ago we saw an amazing medical response to the bombings in Boston. The city has multiple regional trauma centers equipped to handle the most heinous of situations that come through the door, whether they are gunshot wounds, stabbings and even injuries sustained from detonated bombs at an open air public event like the Boston Marathon. It is a shining example of the critical importance of trauma centers and trauma system development to ensure readiness and immediate availability for all those in need.

But what if the bombing happened here in Salt Lake City? Only 1 in 10 US hospitals serve as a major trauma center, meaning nearly 45 million Americans do not have access to a Level I or II trauma center within one hour of being injured. Here in Utah we’re fortunate to have two adult Level I trauma centers, including University of Utah Hospital.

“The tragedy in Boston reminded me of the dedication and service trauma care providers offer to the victims and families, " says Raminder Nirula, MD, trauma medical director of University of Utah Hospital. “We must ensure that trauma systems are well prepared to manage these terrible and unpredictable events."

Trauma centers handle the most severe, life-threatening, blunt force and penetrating injuries that require operations and other interventions by multiple specialists. So while most injuries can be treated at a local emergency department, if a patient is severely injured, getting care at a Level I trauma center can lower your risk of death by 25%.

While the need for access to life-saving care at trauma centers is critical, from 1990-2005, 30% of trauma centers closed, with the primary reason being lack of funding. The federal government does not provide specific funding to ensure access for Americans to the level of trauma care the victims of the Boston bombing received. The Public Health Service Act authorizes $224 million in grant funding to support trauma systems, trauma centers and trauma service availability. However, none of these funds have been provided to date. Now more than ever is the time to fund life-saving trauma care for all Americans.

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