LITTLE ROCK — The state should have 61 trauma centers online and ready for patients by summer, the director of the state Department of Health told legislators Thursday.

LITTLE ROCK — The state should have 61 trauma centers online and ready for patients by summer, the director of the state Department of Health told legislators Thursday.

State Health Director Paul Halverson told the Joint Budget Committee that there are currently 32 hospitals across the state designated as trauma centers, and that by the end of June more hospitals will be added to the list.

“I am very, very pleased that the numbers that we are beginning to see are demonstrating that the trauma system is having an impact on reducing both deaths and morbidity in terms of our injuries,” Halverson said, adding that last year the new trauma call center received more than 17,000 calls.

“We’ve gone down from a time when it use to take as long as three to four hours for us to get a patient agreement on transfer to on average of about two-and-a-half minutes,” he said. “So, that is an enormous change, so we are making progress and I think the funding that you have allocated is sufficient enough.”

The statewide system is being financed by a 56-cents-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax and an increase in the tax on smokeless tobacco, which took effect March 1, 2009.

Halverson said the tax generated about $62.4 million last fiscal year, of which $33 million went to the trauma system. The remainder of the tax revenues are funding more than 20 other health-related programs.