Russellville's 'Reasonable Pipe Dream'

By Staff
Jason Cannon, Franklin County Times
A 13-page paper written for a paramedics class at Northwest Shoals Community College has been getting a lot of attention.
When Russellville's Robbie Richardson first wrote his term paper titled "The Beneficial Impact of a Level I Trauma Center in Russellville, Alabama: A Reasonable Pipe Dream," he was just trying to write a good paper about a subject he believes in, but his paper didn't stop with the teacher.
"The instructor said it was one of the best papers he's ever read and he encouraged me to send it to the State Department of Public Health," Richardson said. "So I sent it in."
The paper made its way to Dr. Don Williamson, the state's health officer, and Gov. Bob Riley, who each responded with a letter of thanks.
The focus of Richardson's paper was the State of Alabama as a whole needing to establish and enforce a uniform, statewide of classification system for trauma centers at hospitals across Alabama.
Such a system, Richardson said, would help to ensure that Alabama residents are as close as possible to at least some level of trauma care.
Locally, patients with severe life-threatening injuries are often sent to Huntsville Hospital, the closest Level II trauma center.
Currently, University Hospital in Birmingham is the only recognized Level I trauma unit in the State of Alabama. However, it is recognized by the American College of Surgeons, not the State of Alabama.
"If the state would get involved and regulate it, and rate hospitals in terms of trauma care, they could determine what areas are most in need of what levels of trauma care," Richardson said. "What I think you'll find is that there are parts of the state that if you have a pretty serious car accident, you're so far away from any level of trauma care, that you're in big trouble."
The 'Reasonable Pipe Dream' portion of the paper comes from locating a Level I facility in Russellville.
"Russellville Hospital is great," he said. "They've got a great staff and they're a great facility."
In addition to using Russellville's staff, Richardson said a Level I trauma center would almost immediately become one of Franklin County's largest employers.
"The economic impact of that would be huge, I mean huge," he said. "The population in Russellville and the outlying area would almost double, maybe even triple."
Aside from a job and housing boom, Richardson said the center would almost have to be tied to a medical school, meaning Franklin County would become a haven for the doctors of tomorrow.
"Most Level I trauma centers are tied in with a medical school," he said.
"That means medical research and even more money being pumped into the hospital."
Even though Russellville Hospital has top-notch facilities, Richardson admitted a Level I trauma center in Russellville is still a pipe dream.
"The main purpose of the paper was to get people to thinking about it," Richardson said, "but who's to say what might happen 25, maybe even 50 years from now."
Since turning his is paper, State Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, and Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, have proposed legislation that would establish the system to coordinate trauma care statewide.

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