It is with great pleasure this week for The Bulletin
to collaborate with Jim Becka
, a man known to many of our readers as a county resident who has served at the forefront of emergency medicine."Most people know me as a teacher," says Jim, "however, I have been a paramedic for 25 years.
I was president of the Houston EMT Association
and was a consultant with the Texas Department of Health
in setting up modern EMS in southeast Texas in the early 1980s."
The reason for our collaboration with Jim
is the fact that he
is soon presenting to state legislators a proposal that could save lives here in Montgomery County and all across our region."We need a "Level 1" trauma center on the north side of Harris County," says Becka, an often high-profile journalism teacher at New Caney High School.
"I think a Level 1 trauma center should be built with state funds.This would make the hospital accessible to people from Montgomery, Polk, and San Jacinto counties."
"Each night television viewers hear the news but never ask the question," says Jim
."They watch a late night television reporter talk about a shooting or motor-vehicle accident in Kingwood or Conroe that eventually results in the death of a teenager at Ben Taub or Memorial Hermann Hospital
in Houston ...
But Jim Becka
says while our region is simply writing off these deaths as unfortunate accidents, "other communities across the United States are dealing with major medical injuries by building trauma centers.
"Texas has 21 major trauma centers," says Becka
"Trauma centers are rated by the American College of Surgeons
," explains Becka
"The ‘golden hour' of trauma care says that physicians must initiate surgery within one hour of the injury in order to save the patient," explains Becka
."This is not always possible in the Houston area.A person trapped inside a car at the intersection of Kingwood Drive and Highway 59 will wait 5 to 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive and another 10 to 20 minutes to be removed from the vehicle and examined by paramedics.This will leave the paramedics 25 to 30 minutes to maneuver through traffic and reach Ben Taub or Memorial Hermann
.Helicopters can help out, but they are not always available and will not fly in bad weather."
"Non-traumatic medical emergencies such as heart attacks, diabetes, and allergic reactions are handled with drugs," explains Becka
, "[but] major trauma must be handled through surgery.Typical emergency departments do not have the surgeons and support staff available at all times for major trauma."
Last week, Jim Becka
participated in an "Up Close" segment that ran on KHOU Channel 11's 10PM newscast concerning the shortage of trauma care in our area; it was discovered that Conroe Regional Medical Center, Northwest Houston Medical Center, and St. Joseph's
are all attempting to upgrade trauma care capabilities, but were also encountering difficulties in finding staff; but this isn't just a health care problem found only in our neck of the woods.
"The KHOU story claims the death rate in Houston's critical trauma injuries increases by 50 percent when both Ben Taub and Memorial Hermann
run out of space," says Becka
Besides the need for a north side trauma center to save lives on an everyday basis, Jim Becka
says it would make our region more overall secure: "A terrorist act in the center of Houston would leave the community without a Level 1 trauma center at a time when it would be needed."Becka
served on a pre-9/11 Department of Defense task force charged with ways of handling a terrorist attack on Houston."The scenario was a terrorist group coming up the Ship Channel.Houston and Harris County are not prepared to handle a large number of injured.And they are not currently handling the large number of medical injuries handling outside the 610 Loop."
is passionate about the project, he
knows there is much work to be done -- and that there is definitely an uphill battle in the offing: "During the past couple of weeks, I began talks with other paramedics and elected officials about using state funds to build a fourth trauma center on the border of North Harris County and South Montgomery County.More people are becoming aware of the problem."
And more money for the growing problem is on the way in the form of a state surcharge on traffic fines now generating millions a year going to hospital emergency rooms.Sure, it's a help -- but just a little relief for an unpleasant problem that requires a lot of money.
Quite frankly, it's a tough sell to both politicians and the general public -- until it is you or a loved one who is a victim of trauma, knowing that they could die if they do not make it to help in time ...
So what is it which drives a regular guy like Jim Becka
to see through such an overwhelming project?Perhaps it is because he
has seen firsthand the tragedy brought about by the absence of a north side trauma center -- and sees personal horror stories played out all the time, stories very few others know.