Suture Shock

Baltimore magazine, October 1993

Where’d the University of Maryland Medical System get $100 million for the new hospital tower at University Center? Blood money, says citizen watchdog Dick Johnson.

“It’s obvious that bricks and mortar has it over quality of health care,” says Johnson.

Nonsense, counters John Ashworth, head of UMMS’s storied Shock Trauma Center.

“I don’t think Mr. Johnson understands how trauma care has changed.”

Critics say the bottom-line decisions that helped UMMS afford the tower could cost Maryland nine lives this year, the most fragile of 35 mede-vac patients turned away from STC because beds are filled. If the center were reserved for those with the gravest injuries, “fly-bys” could be averted--for an extra $10 million per year. But our sources say that could damage UMMS’s grade-A bond rating, which made the new tower possible.

Johnson has long crusaded to maintain STC for only the most severe cases. But chief Ashworth says new injuries—once-rare gunshots, once-fatal car crashes—require his attention. Besides, $10 million could save a lot more lives by paying for 154,000 mammograms. If he had $10 mil.

Seems Baltimore’s on the cutting edge of health care reform, where one man’s fiscal responsibility is another man’s healthcare rationing.

Drive safely.

--Joab Jackson

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