LOS ANGELES COUNTY I: Legislature Asked To Convene Special Session On Trauma Network
Los Angeles County's Emergency Medical Services Commission and county supervisors implored the state Legislature in a hearing yesterday to hold a "special session" to allocate more funds for the county's "ailing trauma network" the Los Angeles Times reports. The four-hour hearing was attended by more than 300 people, including patients, doctors, and nurses, and many of the speakers "expressed shock that the Legislature was unaware" of the trauma system's fragile situation. Assemblywoman Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chair of a committee on health care in Los Angeles, was "stunned" by the state's inaction on this issue but said she doubted the Legislature would call a special session. Assembly member Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park) echoed her concern, citing a lack of political support for increased funding for trauma care. State legislators at the hearing displayed a "cool reception" to the proposal. Local officials said that even lacking state support they would find the money if necessary to prevent the trauma units from closing, but called "any deterioration" in the system "intolerable" at a time when the state carries a budget surplus. Accordingly, county supervisors said they would fund the trauma system for two years with their own money. Entertainer Dick Clark, who was once treated at Northridge Hospital Medical Center's trauma unit after a car accident, added his support, saying, "I guarantee that if you're hit by a car ... then when you're lying on your back in an ambulance, you're going to be praying there's a trauma center nearby" (Riccardi, 9/12).
County Not Blameless In Trauma Mess
Addressing the trauma crisis, a Los Angeles Times editorial calls on politicians "at all levels" to work together to ensure Los Angeles County has a "functioning trauma care network." The editorial states that the county has an "obligation under state law to act as a health care provider of the last resort for indigents and to coordinate emergency health care for all." However, in addressing the current situation, the county has overlooked the fact that last May's budget from Gov. Gray Davis (D) raised the Medi-Cal payments to the county for treating uninsured patients in emergency facilities, and that the federal government in June allocated $900 million over five years for the county to encourage the growth of outpatient clinics, thereby reducing hospital expenses. On the state level, the editorial advises Davis to sign AB 1455, a bill recently passed by the Assembly, that would subject "private health plans that fail to pay county-based trauma emergency rooms for providing care" to tougher penalties. It also suggests that Davis use a portion of the state's $590 million in Healthy Families money to provide health coverage for adults, thereby reducing the number of uninsured people who use the county's trauma centers. The editorial concludes, "Politicians at all levels will have to dig harder for funds -- and cooperation" (9/12).