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July 18, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Texas Trauma Care on Life Support

HOUSTON - The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Trauma Care met on Thursday, July 18, 2002, to discuss the necessity for increased funding for statewide training and facilities for trauma care centers. Harris County, one of the state's weakest areas for trauma care, proved an ideal location for the hearing. The committee began with invited testimony.

Dr. Guy Clifton appeared first to inform the committee that the Harris County area, as well as other areas such as the Rio Grande valley, needs another level 1 trauma center, rather than the traditional remedy--more beds in it's existing facilities. Clifton added that one third of the statewide trauma centers are unable to accept all the patients that need care. Lawsuits and subsequent fallout of insurance coverage have hurt health care in Texas. Doctors can't afford to stay in business, and patients have nowhere to go. It's not a new story. A panel of hospital administrators also testified in support of Dr. Clifton, and the plea for more trauma care funding and facilities. Dr. David Persse of Harris County EMS also testified, bringing similar concerns.

Dr. Patricia Starck of the UT Health Science Center in Houston testified on behalf of the nurses of emergency rooms and trauma care centers. "Young nurses are the ones that you'll find in ER's and trauma care facilities. It's fast-paced, it's intense, it's dynamic. You're not likely to find older nurses there," Starck added, "However we have a shrinking pool of young people entering nursing, so the lack of a nursing workforce is a problem that will worsen." Starck also publicly thanked the Legislature for funding and training programs provided by the 2001 session, but added that there is still a demand for all nurses including male and ethnic minority nurses.

A number of public witnesses also came forward to testify about the increasing need of medical care in Texas.

Committee members Sen. Mike Jackson, Sen. Rodney Ellis, and Sen. Jon Lindsay, all of Harris County, have a special interest in the issues before this subcommittee, as do members Sen. Eddie Lucio and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who represent districts along the border. Senator Chris Harris of Tarrant County serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Trauma Care.

"Let's get these hospitals organized and go win on this thing," Harris charged near the end of the hearing. The Subcommittee recessed subject to the call of the chair.

You can access the archived audio webcast from the Senate's web page of the Finance Committee.

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