Study Finds Decline in Accessibility of U.S. Trauma Care Centers
About one in four U.S. residents had to travel farther in 2007 than in 2001 to access the nearest trauma center, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Between 1990 and 2005, about 339 or 30% of U.S. trauma centers closed, compared with 66 closures between 1981 and 1991. Most of the centers closed because of financial problems stemming from treating large numbers of uninsured patients and having life-saving resources available around the clock.
The study found that the median increase in travel time to a trauma center was about 10 minutes but that about 16 million people saw travel times increase by more than 30 minutes. Researchers found that residents of rural areas and communities with a large proportion of black, low-income and uninsured residents were most likely to be affected (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).
Twenty-four percent of residents in rural areas had trauma centers within 10 miles, while 29% had trauma centers outside that distance (Health Affairs study, 10/5). Meanwhile, elderly U.S. residents and those in urban areas were less affected by trauma center closures. The study found that about 66% of residents in urban areas live within 10 miles of the nearest trauma center.
"We're not saying that we should build a trauma center on every street corner. But we do have evidence that access for certain populations is already pretty bad, and it's getting worse," Renee Hsia, lead researcher and emergency department doctor at San Francisco General Hospital, said (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.