Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Traumatic loss

A teen-age boy who plow-ed into a car while riding his skateboard in Little Rock last week suffered a head injury that was so severe he might have died or been permanently impaired but luckily the trauma unit of Arkansas Children’s Hospital was only minutes away. He survived and his chances are good.

Had he lived farther away his chances would have been much smaller, and that worse fate does befall hundreds of Arkansans who are grievously injured in the outlying regions. Arkansas is one of only three states that do not have a statewide trauma-care system and the only state without what is called a level-one trauma center.

With the state treasury bulging with surpluses ap-proaching a billion dollars and general revenues so flush that the legislature has been cutting taxes right and left, what a good time to take care of that shortcoming. After all, the legislature is appropriating tens of millions for a federal marshals museum at Fort Smith, the sports hall of fame and scores of subsidies for purely private undertakings of no discernible value to the general public. They had to get rid of that billion dollars some way.

A vast majority of lawmakers recognized the need. So did Gov. Beebe. The Senate and House of Representatives passed separate bills to provide money to train people at hospitals around the state on how to stabilize people with critical injuries and to match federal Medicaid funds for the trauma care. But the bills differed on how they would raise the money.

The House bill raised court fees and the Senate bill raised automobile insurance premium fees. Monday, leaders of the bodies got together to work out the differences, and each side insisted that its idea prevail. So they decided the hell with the whole thing and the hell with injured kids. Leave it for a future legislature. They wanted to adjourn the next day. Thus does foolish pride and pettiness again thwart the public weal. Be sure to visit the sports hall of fame and the grand marshals’ museum the next time in Fort Smith, but be careful on the way.
—Ernie Dumas