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Georgia Trauma Hospitals Vie for $58M in Aid

ATLANTA -- Georgia trauma hospitals delivered a strong message Thursday to the state commission preparing to divvy up $58 million in state aid:

It's not just about Grady Memorial Hospital.

The plight of Grady, which is operating at a deep deficit, has highlighted the desperate condition of trauma care in Georgia. The state has 15 hospitals prepared to handle the most severe injuries.

But as the Trauma Care Network Commission prepares to divide the one-time infusion of cash, hospitals, emergency service providers and others made it clear that they are suffering as well and they want their fair share.

"There's a lot of discussion around Grady," the largest trauma care provider in the state, said Michael Polak, who addressed the commission on behalf of Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah. "But it's not just a Grady issue."

Grady Memorial Hospital, the premier provider of such care for metro Atlanta, loses about $40 million a year providing trauma care. Grady is hoping to receive as much as $25 million of the $58 million pie.

The nine-member trauma commission, comprising doctors, hospital administrators and EMS representatives, expects to allocate the state funding next month, said chairman Dennis Ashley, trauma chief at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.

The commission, having only recently obtained the funding, is aggressively collecting and comparing information from providers on the costs and numbers of trauma patients, he said.

"We want to be transparent and fair," Ashley said during the commission meeting at the state Capitol.

Some trauma hospitals have lost millions of dollars for years providing the high level of care that requires extensive equipment and round-the-clock staffing of medical specialists.

Polak, of the Savannah facility, said the hospitals were disappointed that the Legislature failed to approve a measure to provide long-term funding of $74 million a year for trauma care. He pointed to the hospital's work during the recent sugar refinery fire outside Savannah.

The hospital staff "stepped up to the plate," he said and they are "shocked and angry" that they didn't get funding.

He said the hospital operated at a $56 million loss last year, exceeding Grady's deficit, and that Memorial has cut about 400 positions in about the past year.

Still, the $58 million allocation marks the first major state aid for trauma care.

"[The money] will not solve the problem, but it will help the hospitals stay in the game," said Dr. Michael Hawkins of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

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