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Senate working on trauma bill

March 28, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Lawmakers won't leave Annapolis on April 7 without passing legislation to guarantee all of Maryland's trauma centers remain open, a key senator said.

The money probably will come from a $10 surcharge on the cost of a driver's license, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas "Mac" Middleton, D-Charles.

"That's what makes the most sense to me," he said.

Middleton's committee is working on legislation to match a measure passed by the House of Delegates.

The House proposal, developed in part by Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, would increase the driver's license renewal fee from $30 to $40.

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Over five years, the increase would cost less than a penny a day, Donoghue said.

The $8 million raised by the fee would help pay trauma surgeons' costs for being on call and treating uninsured patients.

Legislation was prompted by Washington County Hospital's closure of its trauma center for four months last year over the issue of surgeon pay.

Middleton said the legislature will not adjourn without passing something to ensure that all the state's trauma centers can afford to stay open.

"It's a priority. We will pass something," he said.

Middleton said he is concerned that $8 million will not be enough to cover the hospitals' losses.

The Maryland General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the year on April 7.

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