Local hospitals seeing drop in gun violence 

Gun-related injuries and deaths have declined drastically, saving taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in
medical costs annually.

San Francisco General Hospital officials released a report this week showing that gunshot wounds dropped from 175 in 2005 to 134 last year. The number of gun-related deaths also sharply declined from 45 in 2006 to 17 in 2009, according to the annual report.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” said Patti O’Connor, a trauma program manager nurse at San Francisco General Hospital.

Officials are hoping the new trend remains, adding that in the first six months of 2010, the hospital admitted 55 gunshot victims; six of those were fatal.

The drop in gun violence doesn’t only represent lives spared, it is also money saved. Taxpayers shell out $60,000 for every gunshot victim treated at San Francisco General Hospital, said Rochelle Dicker, assistant professor of surgery at UCSF and a trauma surgeon at SFGH.

Trauma experts link the sharp drop in gunshot injuries and deaths to the hospital’s 5-year-old prevention and intervention program: the Wraparound Project. The hospital hired case managers who work intensely with every gunshot victim who comes through the door, helping them link with resources that will help reduce their chances of being involved in crime, Dicker said.

Nationwide, trauma units are struggling with a 55 percent recidivism rate when it comes to gun and knife injuries.

San Francisco has led the way to reduce the number locally. Since the program started, the number of victims who are re-injured by guns and knives has dropped from 33 percent to 11 percent.

The reduced rate is saving taxpayers more than $500,000 annually, Dicker said.

The program has since expanded to other trauma centers across the country.

“There is a national movement to provide these programs in hospitals across the country, and we have led the way,” Dicker said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascón have touted the declining homicide rate over the last few years, which went from 84 in 2006 to 45 in 2009, according to police.

But that trend doesn’t seem to be holding as 2010 comes to a close. Earlier this week, police reported that homicides have increased citywide by 5 percent from this time last year. Much of that spike is attributed to the seven homicides in November, police Capt. Mike Biel said.

“Of all seven, none are related,” Biel told the Public Safety Committee on Monday. “We had an arrest on several homicides; we have a handle on them.”

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

Wounded

The number of people treated for gunshot injuries at San Francisco General Hospital has declined since 2007.

2005: 175

2006: 228

2007: 231

2008: 173

2009: 134

Source: San Francisco General Hospital

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Erin Sherbert

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