(Jim Marchant) – I have read several columns the past week in the Review Journal talking about trauma centers, as the Health Board will meet Thursday to decide whether to allow three area hospitals to get a Level III trauma center designation. This move will allow these hospitals to better staff up and prepare for “low level” emergencies.
I have been particularly bothered by the two opinion columns from Paul Harasim. He has taken the position that low-level trauma centers provide a false sense of security. He then cites two cases of children who were mistakenly taken to Level III centers instead of to the very fine Level I adult and pediatric trauma center at UMC.
It is very unfortunate that these patients and their families have suffered the way that they have, but the issue is not with the care that they received at the Level III centers. Since these patients were both children, they should have been taken to UMC – the only pediatric trauma center in the valley.
This shows more the important role that the Southern Nevada Health District Board plays in educating EMS personnel and ensuring they understand the criteria for determining where to take a patient. Unfortunately, mistakes do occur, but Mr. Harasim is wrong to use that as rationale to deny the rest of the Valley access to trauma care we deserve.
Level III Trauma centers fulfill an important role in our community.
St. Rose is the only Level III center serving the entire Las Vegas Valley, taking care of a lot of “low level” trauma patients. But according to Health Department records, St. Rose Hospital has suffered from severe overcapacity with respect to its ability to provide emergency care to patients. It operated under “Internal Disaster” status for 35 percent of the total hours of operation from February 2014-2016, which significantly increases the likelihood of trauma services not being available.
What this tells me is that we need more Level III Centers that will reduce the capacity issues at St. Rose, and provide patients access to care quicker.
As an Assembly candidate running in the Sun City/Summerlin area, I have heard from numerous residents about this issue. That area has a large aging population, and there are no trauma centers nearby. Falls account for over 35% of all trauma transports, and the rate is twice as high for seniors.
A Level III trauma center located in the Northwest and Southwest, respectively, would better serve the growing number of senior-living communities in the Sun City and Summerlin areas, as well as North Las Vegas.
According to The American College of Emergency Physicians, Nevada ranked dead last among all states in its ability to provide access to emergency care. Part of that reason is that we only have 3 trauma centers to serve Clark and surrounding counties (about 8000 square miles) and over 2 million people. As a comparison, Chicago has 6 Level I trauma centers to serve 2.7 million people.
The last time Las Vegas added a trauma center was in 2004, when two centers were approved. Since then, the population has grown 30 percent.
Additional Level III trauma centers caring for the lower-level trauma patients relieves overcapacity issues at our area hospitals. It would also allow UMC to focus on the more severely-injured trauma patients like Giulian Grasso and Ty Whitman, as Mr. Harasim mentioned in his column. Their stories should be lessons for us all, that we need more trauma centers in our community to protect our residents.