Access to emergency health care is a public service that most residents of the H-GAC region take for granted. Most of the general public understands that by calling 9-1-1 at the time of a health care emergency, an ambulance will come to pick them up within minutes of their call and they will be quickly delivered to a nearby hospital for appropriate treatment.
But the demand for emergency and trauma care has grown so much in recent years that it often exceeds providers' ability to render care in a timely manner. Hospital emergency rooms have become so overcrowded by increased utilization that they have been forced to go on "divert," directing ambulances to transport emergency patients to another hospital, ultimately delaying urgent treatment needed by the patient. A recent study found that the number of hours local hospitals spent on diversion increased by 77 percent from 2000 to 2001.
In 2003, the H-GAC Board of Directors created the Emergency/Trauma Care Policy Council (Council) to develop a comprehensive regional approach for addressing, uncompensated care and access to non-emergency services, system capacity and expansion, emergency services, injury prevention, and workforce needs. Members of the Council represent all thirteen counties of the H-GAC region and include emergency physicians, trauma surgeons, hospital administrators, EMS providers and representatives from the two local trauma regional advisory councils.
A coordinated, fully maintained metropolitan trauma and emergency response system that provides access to an appropriate facility for every person within one hour of a critical incident.
In response to this vision, the Council's Long Range Planning Committee recommended the selection of The Abaris Group to assist the Council in assessing the region's current emergency healthcare system, identifying the system's short-term and long-term needs, and addressing issues of concern. The Abaris Group began their analysis in January 2005 and completed their report in September 2005.
In 2003, the 78th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3588 which will provide reimbursement to designated trauma facilities the cost of providing uncompensated trauma care. Funding will be obtained through increased fines on motor vehicle violations and penalizing habitually bad drivers, thus linking a major cause of trauma with the funding of trauma care.
The Council's Data Committee has worked toward developing a system for monitoring the performance of regional emergency and trauma care. Supporting this effort are faculty and students of the University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH). UTSPH is developing an integrated database which will include data from the Texas Trauma Care Registry, the Texas Health Care Information Council hospital discharge database, and the local EMSystem hospital diversion database. This integrated database will be used to establish regional baseline performance indicators, assess the impact of regional initiatives developed by the Council and evaluate the impact of HB 3588 trauma funding.
The Health Council is authorized to conduct the following functions: