ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Of the six amendments and referenda in Georgia, one of the most hotly contested was Amendment Two. The amendment would have created a network of trauma centers in the state. But in doing so, it would have tacked on an additional ten dollar fee to your car tag. And to that, voters said no.
While it's common for accident victims to be brought to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, some patients wind up having to travel much farther to get care.
A van rolls over on a rural South Georgia county in the middle of the night. Some of the passengers are hurt badly. Those who are lucky enough to survive are rushed to the hospital. For most of the injured, Phoebe might be their final destination.
"We are perhaps the largest provider of trauma services in the region," said Dr. Doug Patten.
But the victims with the worst injuries could be in for a longer trip. They could have to go many miles to the nearest level one trauma center. While it all sounds like the plot for the latest medical drama, it actually describes what happened a few weeks ago in Early County.
While it may seem like hospitals that provide level two care such as Phoebe can handle anyone involved in a car crash anywhere in the area, there are some things that the hospital is lacking.
"The key difference between level two and level one care are dedicated resources which can only be used for trauma care," said Dr. Patten.
That means trauma care doctors on site at the hospital 24 hours a day. And emergency rooms that can only be used for trauma care. The cost to get the necessary equipment and personnel to build up to a level one trauma center is substantial.
"Amendment 2 would have provided a designated source of funding for new trauma centers. It would have set up a statewide network for co-ordination of care."
It would have done that by charging a $10 fee on yearly tag registrations. The main goal was to increase the number of level one trauma centers in the state from 16 to 30, but it would have done something else as well.
In the event of an accident, the patients information would have traveled with them, no matter where the care occurred. "From the time that the first responders are at the scene, their care becomes part of a co-coordinated network of care."
So now that Amendment Two has gone down to defeat, hospitals such as Phoebe have a decision to make. And for now patients such as those hurt in the Early County wreck will continue to take the long way to get the care that they need to survive.
Dr. Patten said that Phoebe has made its decision. He told us that despite the down vote on Amendment Two, they're still planning to go ahead and take steps to upgrade their facilities to become a full time level two trauma center within the next few months.
Amendment Two failed by a vote of 53% to 47%. Right now the nearest level one trauma center is at Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville.