VVMC earns designation as Level IV Trauma Center
COTTONWOOD -- Everyone has heard about serious accidents when a patient with critical injuries was flown to a trauma hospital such as Flagstaff Medical Center. The reason the most serious patients are flown is that the receiving hospital is a state-designated Level One Trauma Center, with the facilities and skills to treat those injuries.
Now, Verde Valley Medical Center has just been granted status as a trauma hospital.
VVMC was designated a Level IV Trauma Center by the Arizona Department of Health Services last week. A Level IV Trauma Center designation recognizes VVMC has successfully met state standards of clinical and equipment resources, and staff training for the assessment and treatment of trauma patients.
"For years, VVMC has been providing care to emergency and trauma patients," said James Bleicher, M.D., VVMC president and CEO. "After participating in a rigorous survey process with the state, VVMC now is being recognized for that level of care."
With this designation, VVMC becomes part of a statewide trauma system. The goal of the trauma system is to ensure that optimal trauma care is available and accessible to seriously injured people across the state. Trauma centers are classified as levels I, II, III and IV depending on their resources, admissions, staff, research and education involvement. The standard of education and skills required of nurses and physicians are the same for all levels.
At this time, there are only two levels in which hospitals are designated.
ADHS Director Will Humble has made one of the State's priorities to improve Arizona's Trauma System.
"We know we can dramatically improve service and reduce costs by developing a coordinated and integrated system of trauma care for the entire state," says Humble. "More than 24,000 people are severely injured (trauma) every year in Arizona, and more than 60 percent of these severe injuries occur in the rural and 'frontier' areas of Arizona. Receiving treatment in this first hour is critical to survival."
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), injuries are the leading cause of death for children and adults ages 1-44. The leading causes of trauma are motor vehicle accidents, falls, and assault.
"An assessment of Arizona's trauma system a few years ago and concluded that our greatest weakness was our rural and frontier Arizona trauma capacity," said Humble.
When the American College of Emergency Physicians released the National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine, Arizona was near failing. The national mean grade for emergency treatment is C-. Arizona was graded D+, 42nd in the nation. The state was graded on four criteria: access to emergency care, quality and patient safety, public health and injury prevention, and medical liability environment.
However, the College grade shows that D+ was not a reflection of the care delivered but a measure of the state's support for emergency care.
"Our priority has been to establish Level IV Trauma Centers in rural Arizona hospitals so that folks can be treated closer to where they're hurt, or to be resuscitated and stabilized so they can be transported (preferably by ground) to a higher level of care if necessary," Humble says.
VVMC is now one of 15 Arizona hospitals that are designated a Level IV Trauma Center by ADHS. As a Level IV Trauma Center, VVMC will provide care for some trauma patients and can stabilize more severely-injured patients before they are transported to a Level I facility. There are eight state-designated Level I Trauma Centers in Arizona including Flagstaff Medical Center.
The basic tenet of trauma services is to provide healthcare rapidly, in what is termed "the Golden Hour," to reduce mortality. States with trauma systems have seen survival rates increase by 15 to 20 percent.
VVMC is now a Level IV trauma center hospital but is expected to work toward achieving a higher level of care. It may not apply as a Level 3 Trauma Center for at least one year.
Tish Arwine is the Prehospital Care Coordinator at VVMC who interfaces with emergency medical responders in the field, such as fire and ambulance EMTs.
Arwine says, "A critical patient would still go to Flagstaff and pass through a state established triage procedure. But, there will always be cases where because of poor weather, a Guardian Air medical helicopter will not be able to fly or that a patient is too unstable to be transported. We can still stabilize them here and they will benefit from the services of a trauma center."
"The biggest difference," she says, "is a number of performance measures and expectations, in terms of time period and follow-through that provided care quickly.
According to checklist of Arizona Trauma Center Standards, the higher the level of trauma care assumes a larger portfolio of capabilities and education.
"We understand how important this designation is for the community - more than 40 percent of Arizona trauma patients don't reach a designated trauma center within the first hour after their injury," Dr. Bleicher said. "Receiving care in that first hour may be critical for survival. Having a Level IV Trauma Center in the Verde Valley ensures residents and visitors have access to a hospital that is capable to care for them and that is part of a system of care."
To learn more about the programs and services offered at VVMC, visit VerdeValleyMedicalCenter.com or call 928 634-2251.