ATLANTA — A heart-wrenching TV commercial is being played frequently across Georgia airwaves as voters go to the polls even now during early voting to decide whether to give themselves a tax increase.
In the commercial, Stephanie McConnell grieves over the loss of her 3-year-old son who could not receive the medical attention he needed to survive after falling into a swimming pool earlier this year.
On Nov. 2, Georgia voters will decide whether to add an annual $10 tag fee on private passenger vehicles to fund more trauma care centers in the state’s rural areas and maintain the current centers. The question is being posed as a state constitutional amendment.
Cautiously, Republican State Sen. Bill Heath (District 31) observed in an article this week in The Tallapoosa Journal, “While we must ensure an adequate and effective trauma care system in Georgia, I am wary of any additional government-mandated taxes on Georgians. As legislators, we felt the best response to this would be to put the decision in the hands of the voters.”
In favor of the amendment, State Rep. Howard Maxwell (District 17), also a Republican, said in the same article, “Georgia’s trauma care system is in desperate need of a source of funding. This funding mechanism will ensure that Georgia can maintain a reliable trauma care network.”
Maxwell noted that the decision to place this question on the ballot passed the Georgia Senate 46-2 and the Georgia House 149-14.
In opposition to Amendment 2, Virginia Galloway, state director of Americans for Prosperity Georgia and a Republican, was quoted in The Augusta Chronicle as saying, “I don’t think taxpayers should be funding the bill for trauma care.”
The Libertarian Party of Georgia also is opposed to this amendment due to the tax increase.
Heath explained there are no “level 1” trauma centers in South Georgia. The first hour for trauma patients is vital to determine their survival or eventual recovery, he noted.
An estimated $82 million each year would go to a designated trauma fund under the direction of a state Trauma Commission, Heath noted..
George Israel, chairman of Yes2SaveLives.com, said on the website that the funds “will train 911 professionals, paramedics, critical care nurses and physicians, increase rapid transport, provide the latest life-saving equipment and technology and upgrade more emergency rooms to trauma centers.”
“A hospital with an emergency room is not a trauma center,” he explained. “A trauma center has the professional medical staff and life-saving equipment available 24 hours a day to immediately care for severely injured patients.”
Georgia has four Level 1 Trauma Centers in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Savannah, he added. “Georgia only has 16 hospitals with trauma centers, and we need at least 30 centers to meet the needs of our citizens.”
Israel claims that deaths from trauma injuries in Georgia are “20 percent higher than the national average because access to trauma care is severely limited.”
The Yes 2 Save Lives Campaign represents concerned citizens, safety and community advocates, health care providers, local governments and members of the business community, according to the website.
Kelly Quimby, The Tallapoosa Journal, Oct. 22, 2010
Kyle Martin, The Augusta Chronicle, Oct. 21, 2010
Libertarian Party of Georgia, Oct. 1, 2010