Hospital adds trauma center designation

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Roosevelt General Hospital emergency room personnel say the hospital’s designation as a Level IV trauma center will standardize their operations and provide needed funding for equipment and training.

“It’s really a feather in our cap,” said Dr. Matt Foster, trauma medical director at RGH. “We’re the only Level IV center in the state. It’s a really good step for the hospital.”

The New Mexico Department of Health announced Dec. 19 three hospitals had received designation as new trauma centers, RGH among them. The designations came about after the governor asked the Legislature several years ago to create the Trauma Authority in the state and improve trauma services throughout the state with enhanced funding and support. The announcement brought the number to six in the state.

Melissa Tokarski, emergency room director at RGH, said the process of receiving the designation began in October 2005. Laughing, she feels like she’s carried the project like a baby for the last year.

Level IV is the lowest threshold of the four designations and means that a center is qualified to stabilize all types of patients and transfer to a higher facility.

“Yes, we already do that, but now that we are designated as a part of the system, we’re eligible for funds that wouldn’t have been available,” Tokarski said. “The state sets higher standards, but they provide funds (for meeting those standards).”

Tokarski and emergency room RN Mary Russell, who previously served as ER director, agree that the training level of the staff really hasn’t changed. Both feel that the level of care has always been more than appropriate for the hospital’s size, but they’re excited that the funding will be steady for training and equipment to support the eight RNs and three paramedics that work in their department.

“We were doing all this good stuff. We were documenting the care we were giving, but now the state recognizes all that,” Russell said. “That’s a morale boost.”

Tokarski says even though the designation is recently, the hospital has already benefitted from state-funded training for staff and new equipment. She said all six beds in the ER now have cardiac monitors, and a central monitor unit has been installed since the process began. RGH has also received special patient warming devices called bear huggers and rapid infusion equipment that treats hypothermia. New defibrillators have also been ordered.

Foster notes that besides improved funding, the ER is also benefitting from an improved level of networking with other hospitals that is required with the designation.

“It forces us to talk to these other people,” Foster said. “We get consultation as well as feedback, which is valuable. It just opens up a good dialogue.”

Foster says the designation will also bring more standardization to the operating system and provide more consistent care of trauma patients.

Foster says RGH actually sees a significant number of trauma victims, and the assistance from the state is important for a rural hospital like RGH.

“We feel like the whole goal is the best outcome for the trauma patient,” Tokarski said, explaining that pride and over-reaching the hospital’s limitations are not an issue. “We always do what we do best.”