It’s a life-saving choice — literally.
Are the lives of 700 Georgians a year worth an extra few bucks to you?
Let’s ask it another way: Is your own life, or the life of a loved one, worth it?
That’s what a state constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, on the Nov. 2 ballot will in essence ask Georgia voters. The overwhelming and unqualified answer should be yes.
Georgia has roughly half the trauma care centers statewide that it needs to serve the state’s population. There are 16 across the state now, including the one at the Medical Center here in Columbus.
We’re well served here … as long as we stay close to home.
Head into other parts of the state — specifically southwest and south central Georgia — and the picture is starkly different. In those parts of the state, the nearest trauma care could be more than 50 or 75 miles away; it might be closer to 100.
Those distances make a profound and too often tragic difference. Trauma care surgeons and other professionals refer to the “golden hour” — that critical window of time between injury and treatment that makes a dramatic statistical difference in survival and recovery rates. (For children, the window is half that.)
The death rate from traumatic injury in Georgia is 20 percent higher than the national average; that translates to 700 lives a year due to inadequate or nonexistent trauma care in large areas of the state.
A widespread misconception is that because a community has a hospital with an emergency room, it can provide trauma care. That is not the case: A trauma center is a specially trained, staffed and equipped unit that is prepared at any time — including a trauma surgeon available 24/7 — to respond to serious injuries from automobile accidents (by far the leading cause of traumatic injury in Georgia), falls, burns or other serious home or work accidents, and violent trauma like gun or knife wounds.
It is also incredibly expensive.
Under Amendment 2, a car tag fee of only $10 a year would generate $80 million annually for training and hiring more trauma care doctors and nurses, first responders and 911 specialists; it would also fund the creation of new trauma centers at hospitals in areas of need, and provide equipment and staffing upgrades for existing ones.
The amendment guarantees that by law the money this fee generates cannot be spent for anything else. The tag fee revenues will go directly into a trust fund for trauma care.
If there is a no-brainer on any ballot anywhere this election season, Amendment 2 would have to be it. Ten bucks a car, once a year, won’t seem so expensive if you should need life-saving trauma care and can get it.
Or, God forbid, if you can’t.
Dusty Nix, for the editorial board
The proposed State Amendment 2 will read:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?
Click here to find out more about proposed amendments.