SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Thirty-one percent of people living in rural America do not have access to trauma care within 1 hour's drive, U.S. researchers say.
Dr. Renee Hsia of the University of California, San Francisco, and Yu-Chu Shen of Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., linked data from an annual survey conducted by the American Hospital Association with ZIP code-level data from the U.S. Census.
The researchers calculated the odds of having access to trauma care with an easy travel time -- defined as less than 20 minutes; moderate travel time -- 20 to 60 minutes; and difficult travel time -- greater than 60 minutes.
The study published in Archives of Surgery finds 12 percent in urban areas had difficult trauma care access.
"Trauma centers have been shown to decrease morbidity and mortality for injured patients of all age ranges, from children to the elderly," the study authors say in a statement. "However, as highlighted in the media and in scholarly literature, trauma centers are more likely to be safety-net hospitals, are often underfunded, and are more likely to be poorly or not reimbursed for their provision of lifesaving but expensive care. These financial hardships are cited as contributing to the increasing closures of trauma centers in the United States and are part of the growing national crisis in access to emergency care."