Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) participated in a tour of the trauma division and burn center at Rhode Island Hospital, Providence on August 29, and joined a press conference there with William Cioffi, Jr., MD, FACS, J. Murray Beardsley Professor and chairman, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, at which they discussed recently enacted trauma legislation and additional trauma bills pending before Congress. Other physicians, first responders, and burn care experts also participated in the tour and media event. Topping the agenda was the Improving Trauma Care Act, P.L. 113-152, which Senator Reed wrote and which the American College of Surgeons (ACS) strongly supported. President Barack Obama signed the law on August 12, 2014.
The Improving Trauma Care Act appropriately reflects the relationship between burns and other traumatic injuries and makes burn centers eligible for participation in federal trauma care programs.
“Excluding burn injuries from ‘trauma’ not only obscured the close interrelationship between trauma and burn care, but it also excluded burn centers from participating in federal trauma care and research programs,” said Dr. Cioffi, ACS Treasurer and president of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma. “Mass casualties from the Rhode Island nightclub fire in 2003 demonstrated why we need to strengthen the burn care infrastructure in this country and ensure that burn and trauma care are closely integrated. Now with Senator Reed’s Improving Trauma Care Act, we will be able to create a more efficient and responsive emergency medical care system.”
Although this new trauma law is considered a breakthrough for the nation’s trauma and burn community, two important grant programs, the Trauma Care Systems Planning Grants and the Regionalization of Emergency Care Systems Pilot Projects, have not received federal funding since 2005, which threatens emergency care in communities across the country. The first program supports state and rural development of trauma systems and the second funds pilot projects to create innovative models of regionalized emergency care. The law would also direct states to update their model trauma care plan. At press time, Senator Reed was working on legislation to fund these programs.
“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,” said Senator Reed. “Efforts to reauthorize funding for the Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act are gaining increased commitment from elected officials. We must get this bill signed into law before the programs lapse at the end of September to strengthen and improve trauma and emergency care in the U.S.”
The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4080, the Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act, which would restore funding to these two important programs. Senator Reed is working to get its counterpart, S.2405, passed in the Senate.
Senator Reed’s efforts are strongly supported by the ACS, Dr. Cioffi said. “It is critical that we continue to build and refresh our trauma system and make sure that the patients, given their type of illness or injury, are always sent to appropriate, optimal facilities.”