ST. GEORGE – A years-long goal came to fruition this week as officials at Dixie Regional Medical Center announced the hospital had been officially recognized as a Level II trauma center.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication,” said Kimberly Phillips, Dixie Regional’s trauma services manager.
Plans to raise the hospital from a Level III to a Level II trauma center began in 2010, Phillips said. After getting the proper programs, people and facilities in order, Dixie Regional started operating in a fashion akin to its sought-after status in 2014.
Prior to 2014, Dixie Regional built up its neurosciences and orthopedic teams and departments in relation to trauma care. Programs were refined and the standard and quality of care the hospital already offered benefited from it, Phillips said.
Work to achieve this end has been done by many people across many teams and departments within the hospital and local emergency medical services community, she said.
“There are a lot of different areas that have to be involved in making something like that work,” Phillips said, “so it’s been amazing to see everybody work together as a team.”
Along the way, the hospital dedicated four specific rooms as “trauma bays,” and added two new operating rooms by mid-2014. A requirement of being a Level II trauma center is having a trauma care staff and operating room ready to go into action at a moment’s notice when a trauma patient is brought in.
So what exactly does being a Level II trauma center mean for the community?
“What a Level II verification means for our community is that the standards of care available here at Dixie Regional Medical Center are the same as they would be anywhere in the United States,” Dr. Greg Watson, Dixie Regional’s trauma medical director, said.
“It also means that patients who would have normally had to fly from Dixie Regional Medical Center to somewhere else are now able to stay here and have that same high level of care that’s verified by the American College of Surgeons.”
According to the American Trauma Society, elements of a Level II trauma center include:
- Twenty-four hour immediate coverage by general surgeons, as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
- Tertiary care needs such as cardiac surgery, hemodialysis and microvascular surgery may be referred to a Level I Trauma Center.
- Provides trauma prevention and continuing education programs for staff.
- Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.
Before Dixie Regional started operating like a Level II trauma center, individuals who received traumatic injuries to their heads and/or spine, for example, were routinely flown by air ambulance to hospitals in either Las Vegas or Salt Lake City.
Having a Level II trauma center closer to home – and the surrounding region – will also improve a trauma patient’s odds of survival, Watson said.
According to medical studies, he said, for every single minute a trauma patient is delayed in receiving emergency care, their mortality rate increases by 1 percent. Time taken by flights to Salt Lake City or Las Vegas was a necessary evil at the time. Now that time won’t be as long, increasing the patient’s chances of surviving traumatic injuries.
“So that’s why everything needs to be so fast,” Watson said. “We have to do a really good job really fast.”
When a trauma patient is brought to Dixie Regional, be it by ground or air, they will first be taken into one of the trauma bays before being rushed to surgery.
It is in the trauma bays, Watson said, that surgeons and medical staff “find out exactly what is going on” and coordinate efforts to save the patient.
A group from the American College of Surgeons, a nationally-recognized body that verifies whether or not a hospital is operating at a desired level of trauma care, made a two-day visit to Dixie Regional in January. Along with them was a representative of the Utah Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness.
The results of that visit were made known Wednesday as Dixie Regional shared a statement from the American College of Surgeons with media.
“The trauma center at Intermountain Healthcare’s Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah, has been verified as a Level II Trauma Center by the … American College of Surgeons …,” the statement read. “This achievement recognizes the trauma center’s dedication to providing optimal care for injured patients.”
Accompanying the statement was a letter from the bureau to Dixie Regional CEO Terri Kane.
“Upon verification by the American College of Surgeons, Level II Trauma Center Designation for Dixie Regional Medical Center is hereby granted for a full three year period ending January 10, 2020,” Jolene R. Whitney, specialty care program manager with the bureau, wrote in the letter.
“The Bureau of EMS and Preparedness appreciates the work done by the trauma program at Dixie Regional Medical Center and the leadership it has shown in trauma care in the Southwest Region of Utah,” Whitney wrote.
Dixie Regional Medical Center is also the first hospital in Utah to receive the American College of Surgeons’ verification on its first attempt to do so, Watson said.
“That’s kind of a big deal,” he said. “There’s a lot of requirements …. Three years of hard work went into that process.”
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