No In-State Treatment Available for the Severely Burned in Bakken Construction Accidents

The complete absence of burn centers in North Dakota means that badly burned construction accident victims of the Bakkenoil field region must be transported to Twin Cities hospitals for treatment. The transport process is no quick matter since only "...17 percent of North Dakota residents can be transported by air or ground to a burn center within two hours..." This fact can negatively impact the long-term prognosis of a victim.

As reported by the Star Tribune , burn centers are among the most expensive medical facilities to operate, and even in states with large populations burn doctors are scarce, making such centers difficult to staff. "States with low populations, like the Dakotas...have not been able to justify opening such expensive, specialized facilities."

While the overall population of North Dakota remains relatively low compared to the national average, according to Pew Research the population of men has increased by approximately 100,000 between 2009 and 2014. With many of those men having flocked to the state to work in the Bakken oil field region there is a significantly increased need of treatment for severe burns. In the last 5 years alone the state has seen more than 3,100 burn injuries among workers.

Despite the increase in need, the state's medical facilities have not evolved to include even a single burn center. The lack of adequate in-state facilities means that construction accident victims requiring treatment for severe burn injuries are eventually transported to Twin Cities hospitals for treatment.

Prior to the trip to the nearest burn center "...burn victims are initially taken to a hospital in the Bakken. The staff assesses whether the burns are severe enough to fly them to burn centers in the Twin Cities..." After this initial evaluation the burn victim must still endure the journey to the burn center, a minimum of 2 hours from any point in North Dakota.

The time lost to travel and the local hospital's initial evaluation of injuries can negatively impact a patient's chances of significant recovery "...since care administered in the first day factors into burn patients’ long-term recovery." Once treatment at a burn center does begin oil field burns are among the most painful and costly to treat. An oil field worker's treatment at a burn unit can cost $1 million."

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