In praise of trauma care—dozens saved by heroes of Orlando’s level one trauma center
June 27, 2016, 07:05 am
By Reps. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas) and Gene Green (D-Texas)
In the immediate aftermath of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the lives of 35 Americans were saved by the doctors, nurses, and personnel of Orlando Regional Medical Center—Central Florida’s only Level I Trauma Center. For the victims in Orlando, quick access to a state-of-the art trauma facility, staffed by medical professionals trained to deliver highly specialized care for the most critical injuries, made the difference between life and death.
Unfortunately, the events in Orlando are not the first time our country has seen the importance of timely access to trauma care following an act of terror. Close proximity to trauma centers also saved countless lives after the mass shootings in San Bernardino, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon. While there is no silver lining to these senseless acts of violence, we should recognize and be thankful for their close vicinity to some of our nation’s highest-performing trauma centers.
Trauma—serious injury resulting from an event such as an accident, natural disaster, or violent crime—is the leading cause of death for those age 46 and under in the United States. Trauma care systems are the backbone of emergency preparedness, and 1-in-7 Americans lack access within one hour, the “golden hour,” to a center able to treat severe traumatic injuries. Trauma remains the most overlooked threat to public health in the 21st Century; sadly, surviving a traumatic injury may depend on being in the right place when one is injured.
Following the Boston Bombing, each of the 264 wounded individuals that were found alive survived, thanks to city’s advanced trauma care system and medical teams. Following the San Bernardino shooting, the twenty-one injured victims were rushed to nearby trauma centers to receive lifesaving treatment. The number of American lives saved following these attacks was not simply luck—it was a direct result of the close proximity to multiple specialized trauma centers, emergency medical practitioners at the scene, and prior investment and training in disaster preparedness and response.
While this most recent attack in Orlando once again reminds us that trauma can happen at any time and in any place, the fortitude of the trauma care systems in Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando symbolize the best that the American health care system can offer. The medical response to these terrorist attacks are shining examples of how an effective trauma and emergency medical services system saves lives. This is why we have fought to ensure that America’s trauma care system is strong. Trauma victims should not have to compromise access to life-saving care based on their location within the country.
As Members of Congress, we have worked together on a bipartisan basis over many years to enact and sustain federal trauma programs that enhance access to trauma care for all Americans. We currently have two bills to strengthen the future availability of trauma care for all our citizens—the House of Representatives passed these bills a year ago and they are awaiting action in the Senate.
Recent data shows that nearly 30,000 Americans could be saved each year if they received timely trauma care. We must ensure that the necessary resources are in place when and where we need them the most.
Reps. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas) and Gene Green (D-Texas) are senior members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. For the 114th Congress, Rep. Green is the ranking member for the Health Subcommittee. Rep. Burgess, also a member of Health, serves as chairman for the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.