BY PATRICK GUINANE
INDIANAPOLIS | Heftier traffic fines would be the ticket to bringing a trauma care hospital to Northwest Indiana under a measure that cleared the House on a 53-42 vote Tuesday.
House Bill 1215, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, would impose an $18 court fee on more than two-dozen moving violations, including drunken-driving, speeding or running a red light. The fees would help subsidize the state's seven existing trauma care hospitals and provide start-up funds to Methodists Hospitals Northlake in Gary, which wants to become a trauma facility.
"It may generate $10 (million) to $12 million," Brown said. "This is a small step toward helping these hospitals."
Level 1 trauma centers have surgeons and other specialists on duty at all hours to treat the most critical patients, including those injured in stabbings, shootings and traffic wrecks. And Level 2 trauma centers have those professionals on-call and prepared to reach the hospital within 15 minutes.
Northwest Indiana currently does not have a trauma center, which means region hospitals often must airlift patients to hospitals in the Chicago area. Indiana has two Level 1 trauma centers, both in Indianapolis.
Republicans complained about the fees contained in the legislation.
"We are turning the courts into debt collectors for the state of Indiana for things we don't have the courage to finance out of the (state) budget," said Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville.
The legislation now goes before the Senate.