Trauma Center Plan Near Collapse, 2 Groups Warn

Times Staff Writer

The region's two major health-care trade associations warned Wednesday that unless the government pumps more money into the troubled Los Angeles trauma care network, it will collapse as more hospitals withdraw from the 3-year-old program.

Officials of the Hospital Council of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Medical Assn. said that a funding program that once provided some reimbursement to trauma hospitals for those indigent patients without insurance should be restored immediately. The program provided about $5 million in fiscal year 1985-86, which ended last June 30.

While the so-called Los Angeles Indigent Services program did not provide full reimbursement to the private trauma care hospitals, its demise was cited as a major reason why at least two large hospitals have quit the network in the last two months.

"The prognosis (for the trauma care network) is fatal unless state and county governments take quick decisive action on the crucial issue of funding indigent medical care," said Stephen W. Gamble, president of the Hospital Council of Southern California.

The joint hospital council-medical association statement came a day after Los Angeles County supervisors ordered hearings in two weeks to explore the reasons behind Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital's decision, announced Monday, to pull out of the trauma care system. Among the issues expected to be considered at the April 28 hearings is the possibility of restoring the subsidy for indigent patients.

If it actually does withdraw as scheduled on June 15, Daniel Freeman would be the fourth hospital to do so since the network was launched in December, 1983, and the second within two months. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center closed its trauma care unit Feb. 23.

"We are talking about a people problem," said Dr. Jack McCleary, medical association president. "I must emphasize that what is life and death for trauma centers will surely be a matter of life and death for our friends and relatives who are seriously hurt in accidents."

The trauma care network's aim is to ensure that victims in serious emergencies can be transported to specially equipped and staffed hospitals within 20 minutes. The centers are designed to treat the most serious wounds and injuries, such as those sustained in shootings or major traffic accidents. Originally, 23 hospitals were designated trauma care facilities.

Hospital industry officials have warned that the expected loss of Daniel Freeman's center, coupled with the earlier withdrawals of Hollywood Presbyterian, California Hospital Medical Center and Pomona Valley Community Hospital, will place an added financial strain on the remaining trauma facilities.

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