by Pam Zubeck
Memorial Hospital is now pursuing the highest possible trauma designation for its emergency medical services in Colorado Springs. Achieving the designation of a Level I Trauma Center will make Memorial the first Colorado hospital outside the Denver area to provide this level of comprehensive trauma care for patients.
The journey to become a Level I Trauma Center is a significant and expensive undertaking that could take one to three years. The designation requires trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and their teams of nurses and anesthesiologists to be at the hospital or on call and ready to treat patients 24 hours a day. Level I trauma centers have the most sophisticated medical imaging and diagnostic equipment available in addition to the specialists needed to care for the most seriously injured patients.
“While this is a daunting journey for a hospital, it will allow patients in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico to get the most advanced kinds of critical care, when time is of the essence, closer to home,” said Memorial CEO Mike Scialdone.
Centers for Disease Control research shows a 25 percent reduction in deaths for severely injured patients who are treated at a Level I Trauma Center rather than at a non-trauma center.
Expanding Memorial’s services to Level I status will also mean new jobs as the trauma center gears up. Memorial Hospital expects to hire additional staff, including surgeons, as the trauma center gears up for this new designation.
Memorial Hospital’s emergency department (ED) already is the busiest in Colorado and one of the busiest in the nation. Many of these patients are classified at a very high severity level, which is required for a Level I facility. Memorial recently completed a process improvement plan that dramatically reduced, and sometimes eliminated wait times in its emergency department.
“On any given day, our nurses and doctors will treat some of the most critical patients, including stroke cases, electrocutions, gunshot wounds and serious traffic accidents,” said Memorial Chief Medical Officer Patrick Faricy, M.D. “We currently fly some of these cases to Level I trauma centers elsewhere to get the emergency surgeries the patients need. By offering these expert and specialized trauma care services right here in Colorado Springs, the survival rate of the patients will increase dramatically.”
A Level 1 Trauma Center was one of the desires some voters voiced last August when agreeing to lease Memorial Hospital to University of Colorado Health (UCHealth). At that time, UCHealth pledged to look into the issue. After doing so, system leaders determined it would fill an important community need.
“Achieving a Level I Trauma Center designation will be a difficult journey, but one we feel is incredibly important for the residents in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico,” said UCHealth CEO Bruce Schroffel. “We expect the trauma center to draw on the strength of the University of Colorado School of Medicine with an integrated academic program where CU faculty, residents and fellows will practice the most advanced trauma medicine available.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment designates trauma centers in the state, and a lengthy period of planning and preparation is required before Memorial submits a Level I application.
“Becoming a Level I Trauma Center is incredibly exciting for both Memorial and Colorado Springs,” said Andrew Berson, M.D., Memorial’s trauma medical director. “Memorial already offers some of the best care available in Southern Colorado. As we add services and specialists on the road to a Level I designation, the safety and quality of care for all of Memorial’s patients will be positively impacted.”
Memorial Hospital’s two ED locations saw 140,000 emergency patients in 2012 including almost 107,000 at their main Boulder Street location and more than 33,000 patients at the Memorial Hospital North location on Briargate Parkway. The Boulder Street location is currently a Level II Trauma Center, and the Memorial Hospital North location is non-designated.