- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) Lawmakers are proposing legislation to attract doctors to trauma-care centers, which have seen an exodus of physicians willing to put up with round-the-clock schedules and salaries lower than in private practice.
Supporters of the measure point to a trauma center on the Eastern Shore that lost two of its six surgeons last fall and could soon shut its doors. A Western Maryland unit also shut down for four months last summer after doctors refused to provide 24-hour care.
At Prince George's Hospital Center, meanwhile, the trauma unit has two orthopedic surgeons and two neurosurgeons to cover emergencies seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
"I don't think there's anyone out there that doesn't agree that we have reached a crisis point in our trauma system," said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat.
Mr. Busch and others have proposed creating a dedicated revenue stream of $9 million to $17 million annually to pay doctors for trauma care.
The source of the revenue is still being discussed, but many support passing the cost on to motorists because about half of all trauma cases stem from car and motorcycle accidents.
A surcharge of $2 to $4 on auto insurance policies or an additional $15 to renew a driver's license are options being considered.
"The reason people should care about this issue is that without more support, there's a possibility that they could be in a car wreck or a kid could be shot and taken to a hospital that might not have a qualified surgeon who can deal with their injuries as soon as they hit the door," said Kurt D. Newman, a pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital in the District, told lawmakers last week.
Trauma centers strive to treat patients in the so-called "golden hour," the 60 minutes following injury, which is considered the most crucial to survival. The idea originated in the 1960s at the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, and the state now has 11 regional trauma centers, nine dedicated to adults and two for children.


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