It’s a decision that could save lives and money. Tuesday’s announcement of three newly designated trauma centers means Arkansas will no longer be the only state without one.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and the Regional Medical Center in Memphis have been designated Level I trauma centers. The Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff will be a Level II center.
Ultimately, however, the plan is to have not three but 73 trauma centers throughout the state. They would make up a new trauma system, and the governor says that system will save lives.
“This was an abysmal statistic that had been our plight for years and years and years,” said Governor Beebe about Arkansas’ lack of trauma centers.
With the announcement, the state expects to save $193 million per year and hundreds of lives. Funding for the trauma system comes from a number of sources, including a tobacco tax and the Governor’s emergency fund.
The planning for Arkansas’ new trauma network took years. “This system was thought out well. It was researched, it’s evidenced based, and it will save lives,” said Dr. Robert Maxson of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Ron Robertson says the trauma system will help avoid taking patients to hospitals that can’t treat their specific injury. “Now we have patients that get seen in multiple hospitals before they actually get definitive care.” Eventually, when 73 trauma centers are all part of the same system, that will no longer be the case.
“The right patient, the right time, the right location. And that’s what trauma care is all about, getting patients where they need to be as quickly as possible,” says Dr. Robertson.
Arkansas Department of Health director Paul Halverson says he thinks the whole trauma system, with all 73 centers, will be fully functional within the next two years.
UAMS Medical Center Becomes First in State Designated Level I Trauma Center
LITTLE ROCK – The trauma program in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Medical Center is now first in the state to achieve Level I designation from the Arkansas Department of Health as providing the highest level of trauma care.
UAMS received the designation following an August survey by the state health department, which is administering the new statewide trauma system. At the top of the system for coordinating emergency care in the state, Level I trauma centers must have specialized surgeons on duty at all times to quickly care for the most serious and urgent cases.
The UAMS program includes board-certified emergency medicine physicians and surgeons. UAMS trauma services include a state-of-the-art Emergency Department with 34 private patient rooms that opened in 2009 along with a major hospital expansion. The department also features a general X-ray room and a computed tomography (CT) scanner, eliminating the need to transport trauma patients for imaging.
“The Level I designation reflects hard work by our trauma program and hospital to be a catalyst for improving trauma care in Arkansas,” said Richard Pierson, UAMS vice chancellor for clinical programs and UAMS Medical Center executive director. “Our trauma program encompasses a broad, multi-disciplinary approach to patient care that builds on a foundation of our skilled professionals and our facilities.”
Level I centers also must include education, preventive and outreach programs as well as a program of trauma research. UAMS education programs include hosting regular symposiums for health care professionals across the state on new emergency medicine techniques or refresher courses on trauma practices. A patient referral call center and extensive telemedicine network with rural hospitals are among UAMS trauma outreach efforts.
UAMS leads or participates in numerous injury prevention programs including youth accident prevention programs, the anti-drunk driving program Prom Promise, driver safety programs for older drivers and car seat safety education.
“Achieving the Level I designation represents an institution wide commitment when you consider the education, research and outreach efforts with the patient care element, which fits with the UAMS mission to improve the health of all Arkansans,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “A coordinated statewide trauma system will save lives by getting injured patients to the care they need more quickly.”
The statewide trauma system, expected to be operational in 2011, will connect hospitals, ambulance services and other emergency responders statewide to transfer trauma patients as quickly as possible to the facility best able to treat their specific injuries. Four levels of trauma designations for Arkansas hospitals will denote the kinds of resources available in a trauma center and the number of patients admitted yearly.
Injuries remain the leading cause of death for adults and children ages 1-44. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said for those with severe injuries, getting to a Level I trauma center can lower the risk of death by 25 percent. In Arkansas, the death rate for all injuries has been consistently higher than the national average.
A 2008 report by the American College of Surgeons said the overall injury fatality rate in Arkansas is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average, and the injury fatality rate for motor vehicle crashes (the second most common injury mechanism in the state) is 60 percent higher than the national average. In 2005, Arkansas ranked 50th in the nation for timely trauma center accessibility.
There were 6,411 trauma-related visits to the UAMS Emergency Department out of 51,246 patient visits from June 1, 2009 through May 31, 2010. The number of UAMS trauma patients admitted to the hospital has increased more than 140 percent, from 720 to 1,756 between fiscal years 2004 and 2010.
Act 393, which established the trauma system, was approved by the state Legislature in 2009 and signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe on March 13, 2009.
The UAMS Level I designation is for four years, after which there will be a survey for renewal.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. UAMS has 2,775 students and 748 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state.