Local hospitals to become part of state-trauma network

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO/PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - St. Bernard's Medical Center and Arkansas Methodist Medical Center have been awarded $125,000 in grant money from the Arkansas Department of Health to become level 3 trauma hospitals. The facilities are part of 67 other hospitals in the state to join in a state-wide trauma system. Officials with both hospitals told Region 8 News Monday they will use the money to train nurses and doctors in traumatic situations.

"We really don't think it's going to change much of what we do. We still think that we will be the go to hospital for some of the smaller facilities," said Kathy Blackman with St. Bernard's.

Blackman said the hospital will receive half of the $125,000 in November and a trauma registry will be set up to allow hospitals access to state resources.

"All of the nurses have to go through what's called a nurse trauma core curriculum, and we've already got the majority of our nurses through that, but that'll be an ongoing project for education," said Blackman.

"It mainly comes down to having advanced trauma training, so there will be various education components that will be put into place, and also other pieces of equipment that may be necessary," said Shane Carter with Arkansas Methodist.

According to the Arkansas Trauma Advisory Council, The Med in Memphis will be the designated level 1 trauma center for northeast Arkansas. Blackman said The Med signed a contract with the state of Arkansas, allowing it to continue providing care to northeast Arkansans.

"We send our trauma now to Memphis because that is the closest level 1 trauma center and that referral pattern won't change. Really what a trauma system does for a state is organizes the referrals," said Blackman.

AMMC's Dr. Bennie Mitchell has been in the medical field for 32 years. He told Region 8 News Monday he'd like to see the state create an efficient trauma network soon. Arkansas is the only state without a state-wide trauma network, Blackman and Carter said.

"That's one of the most unenjoyable parts of practicing medicine, but you have to deal with that situation. Especially in a younger person, someone that wasn't expected to die," said Mitchell. "It's one of those things where we do now, but the system is not as good as it should be and I think tweaking the system, improving it and having a network in place will greatly facilitate that."

"We were the only state in the United States that did not have a trauma system and what trauma systems do for communities and states, is there is a big education component for it. We want to look at making sure people know how to prevent traumatic injuries," said Blackman. "Part of the grant funding is for education for the community as well as some staff education and the trauma registry."

The Arkansas Department of Health estimates it may take 2 years for all hospitals in the state of Arkansas to be ready to be included in the state-wide trauma network.

"We'll be working over the next several months to meet several criteria and a lot of it is making sure you have adequate training in trauma situations in place and you have the proper equipment in place," said Carter. "There's also going to be a trauma center network that is in place, meaning there is going to be a call center for hospitals across the state will be aligned with various people in the state of Arkansas to be able to find out what resources are available for patients."

Here are the differences of the various levels in the state-wide trauma system:

Level II trauma centers provide comprehensive trauma care and supplements clinical expertise of a level 1 institution. It provides 24-hour availability of all essential special services.

Level III trauma centers don't have the full availability of specialists, but do have resources for emergency resuscitation, surgery and intensive care of most trauma patients.

Level IV trauma centers provide trauma life support before patients are transferred to other trauma centers.

Level I centers can provide the most essential, immediate emergency care.

"The thing about trauma, trauma is predictable. It will happen today. It will happen tomorrow and as a hospital we have to be ready," said Carter. "We send patients to where we can get them the best care possible. Sometimes our ambulances will automatically route a patient to a larger facility. Sometimes that patient comes here. It's all about getting the patient to the right care at the right time."

"We really don't think it's going to change a lot of what we do. We get a lot of patients referred to us from smaller hospitals in the region, and the ones that we can handle, we take care of here. If we can't handle it because it's a sub specialty like a hand surgeon or something like that, then we go ahead and send those on to the appropriate center," said Blackman. "You might be sent here initially to be stabilized if you had other injuries and then we would make sure you're care is appropriate and then get you to the right center. That's what we do now, and that's what the trauma system will hopefully just expedite it and make it faster."

"When you look at all the statistics combined, more Arkansans die in a traumatic situation that twice the national average. Creating a trauma system will help this but prevention is a big key," said Carter.

"That's what a level one trauma center does, they've got doctors in that golden hour, they've got someone immediately available standing for that trauma to come in," said Blackman.

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