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Study panel must find a way to revive local trauma center

June 24, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

The formation of an eight-member task force to study the best way to provide trauma care at the Washington County Hospital is welcome. Restoring this service is vital to the health of thousands in this region.

However, given the gravity of this situation and the fact that the group includes an elected official, Del. John Donoghue, we trust that group will make its deliberations and conclusions public, even if they contain some findings that don't put some of the parties involved in the best light.

Boiled down to its essentials, the trauma center closed as the result of a labor dispute. Nobody's walking a picket line or filing unfair labor practice charges. But it is clear, even from the few comments that have been made, that this is not about the availability of equipment, parking places, or anything like that, but about the hours some people were being asked to work.

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As Dr. Stephen Metzner told The Baltimore Sun, "At this point, the medical staff is not capable of fulfilling the requirements of a Level II trauma center without pushing some people, like the neurosurgeons, to an inhuman degree."

Dr. Abdul Waheed agreed, saying that if more funds were available, the hospital could hire more surgeons and presumably lighten the load for those working now.

If not, then the hospital might have to drop down to A Level III center. Unlike a Level II center, where surgeons must be in the hospital 24 hours a day, a Level III center only requires them to be within 30 minutes of the facility.

The importance of getting this solved can't be overemphasized, because it not only forces transport of serious cases to metropolitan trauma centers, it raises the possibility that local rescue squads won't be available when they're needed.

The trauma system was the dream of the late R. Adams Cowley, a heart surgeon who discovered how essential it was to stabilize victims in an hour's time. It's time to re-think his dream and determine how it can come true again for Washington County.

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