PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to strengthen Rhode Island’s trauma and burn care infrastructure, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today toured the Trauma Division and Burn Center at Rhode Island Hospital and then joined with first responders, doctors, burn care experts, and national leaders from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to herald a new law aimed at ensuring that trauma and burn care are better integrated. 

On August 12, 2014, President Obama signed into law Senator Reed’s bill, the Improving Trauma Care Act (S. 2406), to include burn injuries under the federal trauma designation.

Reed wrote the Improving Trauma Care Act (now Public Law No: 113-152) to update 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.

“Trauma centers can literally mean the difference between life and death for severely injured patients.  This new law will help ensure federal funds are there to support comprehensive care and a full range of trauma services, including burn care.  It could help level I trauma centers like Rhode Island Hospital compete for critical federal funds,” said Reed.

“I am proud to have worked alongside Senator Reed and many partners in the medical community to modernize the legal definition of "trauma" to include burn injuries.  This new law will enable burn centers to participate in federal programs designed to support emergency medical care for those suffering from traumatic injuries or to compete for federal research support targeting trauma,” said William Cioffi, Jr., M.D., FACS, J. Murray Beardsley Professor and chairman, Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Treasurer, American College of Surgeons Board of Regents; and president of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma.

Trauma is a broad definition used to describe severe injuries caused by an external force due to accidents or violence and is the leading cause of death in the United States for individuals aged 44 and younger.  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.

Rhode Island Hospital is the area's only Level I Trauma Center.  Hasbro Children's Hospital, the pediatric division of Rhode Island Hospital, has been designated a Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center by the ACS.  The Burn Center at Rhode Island Hospital, which is part of the Level I Trauma Center, is the only accredited burn center in the state.

There are 122 Burn Centers nationwide, 66 of which are "verified” by the American Burn Association (ABA) and ACS, including Rhode Island Hospital.  Burn Center verification provides a true mark of distinction that the center provides high quality patient care and meets the demanding standards for organizational structure, personnel qualifications, facilities resources and medical care services.

Reed also outlined plans to pass another bipartisan bill he is working on to support the nation's trauma centers by providing federal grants to states for the planning, implementation, and development of trauma care systems. 

The Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act (S. 2405), 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 bipartisan bill, cosponsored by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), would also direct states to update their model trauma care plan with the input of relevant stakeholders.  Set to expire this year, these critical programs support emergency care in communities across the country.

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.

“This legislation will help states strengthen and improve their capacity to offer trauma and emergency care for their most critical patients,” concluded 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.”

“Survival among severely injured patients requires specialist care delivered promptly and in a coordinated manner,” said Dr. Cioffi.  “The Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act will help us provide more coordinated trauma care to our patients and the American College of Surgeons stands ready to work with Senator Reed to pass this critical piece of legislation.”

In addition to the American College of Surgeons, a number of other leading trauma care professional organizations strongly supported Reed’s bill, including the American Burn Association; the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma; the American Trauma Society; the American College of Emergency Physicians; the Trauma Center Association of America; and America’s Essential Hospitals.