Medical professionals appealed to the Legislature on Tuesday for additional money for state trauma services.
At a Capitol press conference held by the Coalition to Protect Trauma Care, a partnership of medical groups, Dr. Brian Eastridge, a trauma surgeon from San Antonio, said the state's financing for trauma services is “drastically, woefully undersupported."
The group asked legislators to use some of the $424.8 million in the Designated Trauma Facility and EMS Account to fund trauma care. Last session, legislators allocated just $59 million to the state's 265 trauma centers.
“We need the state of Texas to look back at the other pieces of this emergency health picture and restore some of the funding and help some of those issues that have resulted from the bad days, the dark days of the budget,” said Dudley Wait, EMS director for the city of Schertz.
Money for the designated trauma fund comes primarily from fees collected under the Driver Responsibility Program, which requires drives to pay large fines for certain traffic violations or risk losing their licenses. Lawmakers in recent sessions have threatened to abolish the program, which critics say is ineffective and amounts to double jeopardy for drivers who must pay fines to the city or county that issues the ticket and then additional fees to the state program. The program has resulted in thousands of Texans losing their driver's licenses.
The group argued that the program should continue and that bad drivers should pay to support the trauma system since car crashes accounted for 34 percent of trauma-related fatalities in 2010.
The group also emphasized the need to return funding to ambulance programs, which are essential in rural communities.
“We have [ambulance] agencies all across Texas that are shutting their doors,” Wait said. “We can have the best physicians, hospitals and nurses ... but if you’re injured and you can’t get to the trauma center, none of that really makes any difference.”