March 7, 2011

Misspent youth... Misspent resource

The story in the paper this morning relates the tale of a teenage party gone badly wrong.

The tragedy in that headline is stunning. Six are DOS and three injured badly enough to require emergent transport to hospitals. Two of those must have been very badly burned, as they were transported by helicopter to the Parkland burn center, some 70 miles distant rather than 35 miles to the Level 1 trauma center at Fort Worth's John Peter Smith hospital.

This quote from the Dallas Morning News says it all…

"One man and woman were taken by medical helicopter to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Both have since been released. A third man was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He was being held overnight for observation."

So why the helicopters?

It is a question I’ve asked before, and here we see another episode of the same, old thing. 

We don’t know the staffing issues on the ground. There may not have been sufficient ground ambulances for the number of patients, so perhaps the eggbeaters were summoned under mass casualty protocol. 

Maybe JPS was on diversion status, or perhaps the ground medics were not trained well enough to identify the severity of injuries, and HEMS was summoned for greater level of care.

We don’t yet know the reasons, but in retrospect we do know that the helicopters were unnecessary... and we know the likely costs. The helicopter operators will bill the patients somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 each. The ground ambulance may run $1,200 or so. 

We also know that burn patients transported to more-distant burn center designated hospitals, while bypassing closer facilities of otherwise equal level, would receive care sooner and usually experience same or similar outcome. 

We transport patients by expensive helicopters when money could be saved and outcome unaffected if we transported by ground. The added mileage, time and expense of transport to burn centers are often unnecessary and wasteful. Resources are misused and healthcare dollars misspent for insufficient benefit. 

We know all of this, so why do we keep doing it? 



Old NFO said...

MD, the ONLY answer I can give is because they can... sigh...