WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to efficiently provide life-saving, coordinated care to those in need, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is reintroducing legislation aimed at improving the quality and capacity of our nation’s trauma care systems.  The Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act (S. 763) would reauthorize through 2020 federal grants to states for the planning, implementation, and development of trauma care systems.

“Trauma centers can literally mean the difference between life and death for severely injured patients.  It is essential that trauma care providers have access to the best available resources so that they can effectively serve our communities and save lives,” said Reed, who wrote the Trauma Care Systems Planning and Development Act of 2007, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush (Public Law 110-23).

According to the National Trauma Institute, trauma accounts for 41 million emergency room visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions across the country each year.  The nation’s trauma and emergency medical systems are designed to respond quickly and efficiently to get seriously injured individuals to the appropriate trauma center hospital within the “golden hour,” the time period when medical intervention is most effective in saving lives and preserving function.  Achieving this standard of access requires maintenance and careful coordination between organized systems of trauma care.

The Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act would reauthorize two important grant programs: Trauma Care Systems Planning Grants, which support state and rural development of trauma systems, and Regionalization of Emergency Care Systems Pilot Projects, which provide funds to design, implement, and evaluate innovative models of regionalized emergency care.  The bill would also direct states to update their model trauma care plan with the input of relevant stakeholders. 

The Trauma Care Systems Planning Grants program was last reauthorized for $24 million per year for fiscal years 2010-2014.  The Regionalization of Emergency Care Systems Pilot Projects program was created in 2010, and funded out of the Trauma Care Systems Planning Grants program budget for $12 million.  Reed’s reauthorizing legislation provides level funding for both programs, $24 million to be shared equally between the two initiatives.

U.S. Representatives Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) and Gene Green (D-TX) have introduced companion legislation (H.R. 648) in the House of Representatives, which was approved this week by a vote of 382-15.

“This legislation will help states strengthen and improve their capacity to offer trauma and emergency care for their most critical patients,” said Reed.  “Trauma care systems save lives and improve patient outcomes, but in too many communities the necessary care is just out of reach.  It is essential that our first responders and medical professionals have the tools they need to plan and coordinate a strategy to ensure that severely injured patients receive the best possible care, especially when the clock is ticking.  Trauma care is not only critical to providing timely access to lifesaving interventions, it is the cornerstone of our health care system – central to both our national security and disaster preparedness.”

The legislation has been endorsed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American Burn Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the American Trauma Society, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Association of Critical Care Transport, The American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, Emergency Nurses Association, Society of Trauma Nurses, American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, The Orthopedic Trauma Association and the Trauma Center Association of America.

Senator Reed also wrote the Improving Trauma Care Act (now Public Law No: 113-152), which was signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.  Reed’s law updates the federal definition of trauma to include burns, a change that more appropriately reflects the relationship between burns and other traumatic injuries.  Reed’s efforts to include burn injuries will help ensure that burn centers are eligible for federal trauma care programs and patients have access to the necessary care in their hour of need.