A Level III Trauma Center is an institution that has demonstrated the ability to provide prompt assessment, resuscitation, surgery, intensive care, and stabilization of injured patients and emergency operations. Among other elements it must include 24-hour immediate coverage by emergency medicine physicians and the prompt availability of general surgeons and anesthesiologists; a quality assessment program; transfer agreements to higher level centers for patients requiring more comprehensive care; back-up care for rural and community hospitals; and continued education of its nursing and allied health personnel, as well as involvement in prevention efforts and outreach programs.
"The fact that we do provide these services demonstrates a huge investment in our community,” says Brenda Stewart, Director of Trauma & Medical Education at the hospital. “CHRISTUS St. Vincent spends $8.7 million annually to maintain all the resources necessary for us to be a designated trauma center.”
The hospital currently has four trauma physicians, two general surgeons and two trained in trauma and critical care. “Our emergency physicians are not just doctors who rotate in and out of the ED, they are specially trained in emergency medicine,” says Stewart. “We also have two orthopedic trauma surgeons and full- time neurosurgeons, which is unheard of for a city this size.”
The hospital is able to successfully treat 95 percent of patients who come in with trauma, which is a tremendous asset for families that would find it difficult to travel to visit their loved ones.
It is a significant investment simply to have trauma staff here, says Stewart. “We have the physicians, we have the nurses, and we provide all of the services necessary for a top-of-the-line trauma center. What we also have is the commitment. Our surgeons and our nurses are here because they want to be here. Crisis level issues are so important, and our people want to be here to help patients in need—patients who are their family members, friends, neighbors, and other members of their own community.”