Editorial: Support plan for trauma center in Gary 

Jan 14

The Indiana General Assembly has been told by Gov. Mitch Daniels that money isn't available for spending on new projects. His position is commendable, but the exception must be creation of a trauma center in Northwest Indiana.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, is chairman of the House Public Health Committee. He knows where the gaps in health care are -- including his own corner of Indiana.

House Bill 1215 would help fill that gap by generating money for trauma care.

Brown has said for a long time Northwest Indiana should have its own trauma center, and he's right. There are seven such centers elsewhere in Indiana. Why not in Northwest Indiana?

The region has numerous expressways and rail lines, a heavy concentration of heavy industry and enough violence, unfortunately, to create demand for a trauma center. Trauma centers have surgeons and specialists on call at all hours for advanced care.

The need is even greater now that a trauma center in Olympia Fields closed and Northwest Indiana patients must go the distance to Chicago.

Brown's plan addresses many health care needs, not just the provision of trauma care.

His legislation would add an $18 court fee to most moving violations to generate money for trauma centers. That makes sense; their poor driving increases the need for trauma care.

A $1 surcharge on license plate renewals and $1 on driver's license renewals would bring the total amount collected for the fund to $16.6 million annually. That's little pain for great gain.

Here's how that proposal fits into the big picture:

  • The Indiana University School of Medicine needs to expand its Gary location to offer four years of instruction, not just the first two. That would increase the likelihood of keeping doctors in Northwest Indiana to practice in areas that are currently underserved.
  • An expanded medical school would benefit from the establishment of a teaching hospital, which could help supply trained medical staff throughout Northwest Indiana.
  • Methodist Hospital's Northlake Campus in Gary is an aging facility that should be replaced. Methodist has a great track record of service and care in the community and is making good use of its current facilities.

Even so, it is time to build a new Methodist Hospital in Gary, provide trauma care there, and use it as a teaching hospital. The urgent need now is for the state to pay its fair share for the provision of this essential health care in Northwest Indiana.

Brown's legislation, HB 1215, deserves the General Assembly's hearty support.

Look it up online
To read House Bill 1215 and watch its progress, visit http://nwi.com/opinion

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