I read this very disturbing New York Times piece today as my fellow New Yorkers were stuggling to get to work and school after the early morning deluge which brought the city to a near grinding halt.
“U.S. hospitals are increasingly shutting down their burn centers in a trend experts say could leave the nation unable to handle widespread burn casualties from a fiery terrorist attack or other major disaster. Associated Press interviews and an examination of official figures found that the shrinking number of beds is a growing cause for concern in this post-Sept. 11 world.
Experts say burn centers are expensive to maintain and often lose money because they are staffed with highly specialized surgeons and nurses and stocked with sophisticated equipment designed to ease patients’ excruciating pain, fend off deadly complications and promote healing.
The number of burn centers in the U.S. has dropped from 132 in 2004 to 127, and burn beds have fallen from 1,897 to 1,820, according to American Burn Association records compiled from voluntary reporting by hospitals…
‘If something happens and we need the beds for burn patients, it is going to be a real catastrophe.’ said Dr. Alan R. Dimick, past president of the American Burn Association and founder of the burn center at the Univeristy of Alabama at Birimingham.
Some states — Mississippi, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and New Hampshire among them — have no burn centers at all. South Carolina has only a children’s burn center, and there are just a few dedicated burn beds in Maine, Alaska and Hawaii.
‘People ought to be pretty frightened by this,” said Dr. Barbara Latenser, burn center director at the University of Iowa Hospitals. ”Some people who live out West, they are 800 miles from a burn center.'”
What will we do when the fire comes next time? Don’t be deceived; there will be a next time.