Firearm-related deaths and injuries are ongoing public health issues in the United States. We reviewed a series of gun violence- and firearm-related injuries treated at a multi-campus community healthcare system in West Michigan to better understand the demographic and clinical characteristics of these injuries. We also studied hospital charges, and payers responsible, in an effort to identify stakeholders and opportunities for community- and hospital-based prevention.
We performed a retrospective review of firearm injuries treated at Mercy Health Muskegon (MHM) between May 1, 2015 and June 30, 2019. Demographic data, injury type, Injury Severity Score (ISS), anatomic location and organ systems involved, length of stay (LOS), mortality, time of year, and ZIP code in which the injury occurred were reviewed, as were hospital charges and payers responsible.
Of those reviewed, 307 firearm-related injuries met inclusion criteria for the study. In 69.4% of cases the injury type was attempted murder or intent to do bodily harm. Accidental and self-inflicted injuries accounted for 25% of cases. There was a statistically significant difference in the mechanism of injury between Black and White patients with a higher proportion of Black men injured due to gun violence (P < 0.001). Median ISS was 8 and the most commonly injured organ system was musculoskeletal. Median LOS was one day. Self-inflicted firearm injuries had the highest rate of mortality (50%) followed by attempted murder (7%) and accidental discharge (3.1%; P < 0.001). Median hospital charge was $8,008. In 68% of cases, Medicaid was the payer. MHM received $4.98 million dollars in reimbursement from Medicaid; however, when direct and indirect costs were taken into account, a loss of $12,648 was observed.
Findings from this study reveal that young, Black men are the primary victims of gun violence-related injuries in our West Michigan service area. Hospital care of firearm-related injuries at MHM was predominantly paid for by Medicaid. Multiple stakeholders stand to benefit from funding and supporting community- and hospital-based prevention programs designed to reduce gun violence and firearm-related injuries in our service area.