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Sen. Rob Portman spearheads legislation to benefit burn centers like Akron Children’s

Sen. Rob Portman makes a connection with a patient during his visit.

Sen. Rob Portman makes a connection with a patient during his visit.

Adults and children who survive serious burns often face weeks, if not months of care in the hospital, including reconstructive surgeries and highly-specialized treatments.

Burn care is one of the most expensive aspects of healthcare and burn centers, such as Akron Children’s Hospital’s Burn Center, often operate at a loss.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, concerned about the financial health of the country’s burn centers, including the 8 in Ohio, introduced a bill to modernize the federal definition of trauma to include burn injuries. This law, which is awaiting the president’s signature, would enable burn centers to apply for funding made available under trauma and emergency care programs.

During a visit to Akron Children’s burn center Wednesday, Sen. Portman had a chance to talk to staff, as well as a few patients.

Heather Belacic, a registered nurse and clinical coordinator for the burn center, led the senator on a tour of the 12-bed unit that, last year, treated 287 adults and children with all types of burns.

Sen. Rob Portman and CEO Bill Considine.

Sen. Rob Portman and CEO Bill Considine.

After his visit to the burn center, Sen. Portman sat down with Hospital President and CEO Bill Considine and Dr. John Crow, chairman of Surgery, about the positive impact the legislation could have on Akron Children’s, especially its ability to handle patients in a mass disaster.

“So much of what trauma centers do is related to burn care,” Sen. Portman said. “Should there be, God forbid, an awful terrorist incident, burn victims would be now included in trauma care.”

Dr. Crow agreed, noting that he has often thought that all it would take is a plane crash in Ohio to fill all the burn centers in state, as well as those in neighboring states, to capacity.

Touring the burn center.

Touring the burn center.

Akron Children’s is just 1 of 2 pediatric hospitals in the country to have a burn center and about 75 percent of its patients are adults. Between 30 and 40 percent of Akron Children’s burn patients lack insurance.

“We can spend as much as $100,000 on products alone to treat a patient with extensive burns,” said Dr. Crow.

Considine noted that burn centers are actually decreasing in number around the country.

In addition to helping patients recover from their physical wounds, Akron Children’s burn center helps patients recover from the psycho-social difficulties of being a burn survivor. Social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, psychologists and burn nurse educators are all important members of the clinical team.

The burn center has an active burn survivor support group and partners with local fire departments to sponsor Aluminum Cans for Burned Children (ACBC), which uses the profits from donated aluminum cans to provide financial support for the survivors’ group, as well as individual patients.

Juvenile Firestoppers is a fire prevention program the hospital offers for children and adolescents who have an unhealthy interest in fire and may have engaged in fire-setting behavior.

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