Trauma Centers at the Breaking Point
Unlike some other states, Georgia lacks a coordinated statewide trauma system to help distribute patients to the appropriate facility. That leaves physicians to shop patients around themselves.
In 2007, Newsweek magazine described a typical Saturday night in Grady Memorial Hospital’s emergency room, the only Level I trauma center within 120 miles of Atlanta, as overwhelmed doctors and nurses struggled to treat patients brought in from across the state with life-threatening injuries:
Doctors and nurses darted from one patient to another, medicating, bandaging and intubating them. Amid the tumult, one nurse exclaimed: “This is Lebanon! This is Afghanistan!” The neurosurgery team was overwhelmed. One resident drilled a hole into the female gunshot victim’s skull, so he could insert a tube that would relieve the pressure on her brain.
Another resident re-bandaged the other gunshot victim’s head, which oozed blood and brain matter all over the sheets. Why all the head injuries? It turned out that most hospitals in the area at that hour had either no Intensive Care Unit beds or no neurosurgeons available.