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Trauma Care Staff Requirements Eased

A divided Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to relax hospital staffing requirements in the troubled trauma care system over the objections of health officials who warned that the action would endanger lives.

Supervisors voted to require that a surgeon be on call, rather than on duty, 24 hours a day in the emergency room. Supervisor Pete Schabarum proposed the change, saying it is necessary to lower operating costs of hospitals, which have been quitting the trauma care system because of the cost of caring for the poor.

But Dr. Arthur Fleming, trauma care director at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, argued, “If we reduce the criteria to have a trauma surgeon in house, we will not save money, but we will increase the number of people who die.”

Supervisor Ed Edelman cast the lone dissenting vote, contending that only the state can rescue the trauma care system by providing more money to reimburse hospitals for indigent care.

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