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Weekly Address – July 24, 2020

From the quiet hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.

It’s about time for some good news on the health care front.

Preventable deaths from trauma are down. Way down.

The list of preventable deaths from traumatic injuries includes things such as a wreck on the highway, a swimming accident or getting hurt with a power tool.

Ten years ago, traumatic injuries were the number one killer of Arkansas residents between the ages of one and 44. The American College of Emergency Physicians cited Arkansas for having the worst emergency care system in the entire country.

Well thank goodness those days are long gone. Earlier this year the Secretary of Health, Dr. Nate Smith, was the keynote speaker at a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Arkansas trauma system.

Yes, that’s the same Dr. Smith who accompanies the governor every day at the briefings on the coronavirus.

At the celebration of the trauma system, Dr. Smith announced that we had reduced preventable deaths from injuries by more than two-thirds.

Specifically, deaths from accidents went down from 30 percent to 8 percent.

Deaths due to trauma in Arkansas have gone from being higher than the national average to below the national average.

The legislature had been working on a statewide emergency medical system since 1975. We had an advisory council of surgeons, emergency physicians and hospital administrators, and they had built the basic structure of a trauma system.

In 2009, the legislature funded the trauma system with $25 million in revenue from an increase in tobacco taxes. That’s when the Arkansas trauma system began to improve by leaps and bounds.

Our trauma system designates hospitals in four categories, depending on the level of emergency medical treatment they are able to provide. Level One hospitals provide the most extensive care for trauma.

Designation as a Level Four hospital does not reflect its quality of care, only the range of services it has the equipment to provide. For example, a Level One facility has a neurosurgeon on call 24 hours a day.

Level Four trauma centers are typically in small towns, and their staff are skilled in the initial evaluation and stabilization of a critically injured person. Those skills are vital before the patient can be quickly transferred to a trauma center with a higher level of care.

Six hospitals are designated Level One, including two in Memphis that serve the delta in eastern Arkansas. They are Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Regional One Health.

There are four Level Two facilities in Arkansas, 19 Level Three centers and 35 Level Four trauma centers.

Our EMT’s and ambulance services have also improved their training, with help from grants provided by the state trauma system.

Ten years ago, it could take hours for an accident victim to be transferred to the facility where they could receive the most appropriate care. Now, it takes minutes.

I agree with Dr. Smith, our trauma system is a tremendous success story.

From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.


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