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Taylor wants state to help trauma center

Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. has asked hospital administrators and doctors to meet with him next week.

Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. has asked hospital administrators and doctors to meet with him next week.

August 15, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. has asked hospital administrators and doctors to meet with him next week to find a way to reopen Washington County's trauma center.

"It's very important we resolve this issue to everybody's satisfaction. The shock trauma service is absolutely too important to be without," said Taylor, D-Allegany.

Taylor said he believes it will take $1.5 million in state aid to reopen the trauma center, which has been closed since June 1.

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The money would be spent to reimburse doctors for their services, he said.

"I think the people involved in the Washington County problem are struggling to find an answer and I think it's the state's responsibility to fund that answer," he said.

Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer James P. Hamill is sending a top administrator to the meeting, scheduled for next Wednesday morning in the speaker's Annapolis office, Taylor said.

Hamill did not return a call seeking comment.

Through hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault, Hamill said he was grateful for Taylor's help and he did not know what to expect from the meeting.

Other legislative leaders, including Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, are also invited to the meeting.

Washington County's trauma center is a vital link in the statewide system of treating critically injured people.

Its closure has forced local trauma patients to be taken at trauma centers in the Baltimore-Washington area.

It has burdened the Maryland State Police helicopter division, which has been handling twice the number of calls in the region, Commander Donald Lewis has said.

Neither hospital administrators nor doctors will discuss publicly the specific problems of staffing and compensation that led to the trauma center's closing.

Hamill has said there were not enough surgeons to cover the shifts. Trauma surgeons have said that they were willing to keep working during negotiations.

Earlier this week, Hamill said that if the trauma center reopens, it most likely will be downgraded to a lower level than the Level II status it had when it closed.

A Level II certification requires trauma surgeons to be available at the hospital at all times. A Level III certification gives surgeons 30 minutes to arrive. A Level III status would help alleviate staffing burdens.

Washington County Hospital has run a trauma center for about 20 years. It's been classified as a Level II center since 1996, when the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems revamped its certification system.

Resolving the problems at Washington County Hospital will help the state address similar problems at other trauma centers, Taylor said.

Statewide, trauma doctors are not being adequately reimbursed for their work, he said.

A Study Panel on the Funding Needs of Trauma Centers has been meeting for the last year.

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