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Vitale-Madden Bill to Improve Trauma Care in New Jersey Advances

Senator Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, listens to testimony at the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Governor's toll road plan.

Legislation Would Evaluate State’s Trauma Care System, Create Comprehensive Plan to Standardize Practices at Trauma Care Providers

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Chairman Joseph F. Vitale and Vice Chairman Fred Madden that would create a plan for the state’s trauma care system to ensure individuals no matter where they live in New Jersey have access to optimal care to match the severity of their injury was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with a vote of 13-0.

“Guaranteeing that our trauma care system, from the moment someone calls 9-11 for an injury to the completion of rehabilitation, is critical as it can mean the difference between life or death for someone experiencing a trauma,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Without the proper oversight and evaluation processes in place, we cannot be sure that we are being as effective as necessary to ensure the health and wellbeing of these patients.”

The bill is derived from recommendations in a 2008 report by the AmericanCollege of Surgeons Committee on Trauma that suggests that under the current state trauma system timely transport to a trauma center is not assured. The report also states that the New Jersey trauma system is vulnerable due to a lack of statewide trauma data collection to determine system performance and a lack of enforcement and monitoring of current statutes or regulations within the state trauma system. This bill will begin to address these and other issues outlined in the report.

“New Jersey residents should feel confident that when they are hurt, they are being transported to a hospital that can best care for their injury,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “This legislation will establish a statewide trauma care system plan to help ensure that people will receive appropriate trauma treatment throughout New Jersey.”

The bill, S-3027, would require the Commissioner of Health to appoint a state Trauma Medical Director to oversee the planning, development, ongoing maintenance and enhancement of a statewide formal trauma system that is consistent with the recommendations of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.

Additionally, the bill would require the Trauma Medical Director to establish a State Trauma System Advisory Committee (STSAC) with representatives from the state’s trauma centers, burn treatment facilities and rehabilitation facilities as well as licensed physicians, nurses and pre-hospital care providers. The Committee would be tasked with analyzing data related to trauma care in the state; designing a formal system of trauma care with system-wide standards of pre-hospital triage and hospital based care; continually evaluating the state’s trauma system; and indentifying strategies to ensure optimal coordination of the state’s trauma system. The bill would require the Committee to submit a comprehensive state trauma plan to the Health Commissioner and the Trauma Medical Director within one year of enactment of the bill.

The Senators note that an in-house evaluation of hospital admission data related to trauma-related ICD-9 codes shows that many traumas are incorrectly admitted to non-trauma system hospitals. This is especially alarming since there is clear data correlation with the number of procedures a surgeon performs and the patient outcome – a clear indication that adequate experience with life-threatening or urgent cases by the medical team can improve the outcome for the injured.

The state currently has ten strategically-located AmericanCollege of Surgeons verified trauma centers, which guarantee immediate availability of specialized personnel, equipment and capabilities 24 hours a day to care for seriously injured patients. UniversityHospital in Newark, RobertWoodJohnsonUniversityHospital in New Brunswick and CooperUniversityHospital in Camden all serve as level one trauma centers in New Jersey.  Level one trauma centers are regional resource facilities that have the capability to provide total care for all aspects of trauma – from prevention through rehabilitation. To receive this distinction, a trauma center must treat a minimum of 600 patients per year. Additionally, in New Jersey there are level two trauma centers located in Hackensack, Paterson, Jersey City, Morristown, Trenton, Neptune and Atlantic City.

Injury accounts for more than 60,000 emergency department visits yearly in New Jersey and more than 3,500 people die each year from injury including those sustained during motor vehicles crashes, poisonings and falls.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for approval. 

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