A large gathering in the hospital lobby celebrated the achievement, with Regional’s chief executive officer Nathan Vooys commending the staff for years of preparation to build the program.
After initially considering seeking verification as a Level 3 trauma center, he said, the hospital team decided to go after Level 2 status instead.
“Since 2015 we have treated over 2,000 trauma patients, many of whom would have had to leave the community for treatment if we had stayed the course and pursued a Level 3 program,” Vooys said. In fact, the hospital was already providing many Level 3 services, but was not verified, he said.
Level 2 status calls for an in-house trauma surgeon who can respond within 15 minutes of patient arrival, a backup trauma surgeon available within 30 minutes, quick response for neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, anesthesiology, radiology, surgical and medical specialists.
The only differences from a Level 1 trauma center are there are no requirements for research, a surgical residency program or a certain volume of patients.
“To become a trauma center is a huge achievement. It’s a huge undertaking,” said Dr. Christine Toevs, Regional’s trauma medical director. “Everything from training the nurses to working with EMS to bring us patients, to training the operating room staff to take care of these critically injured patients, to nursing care on the floor. There is a huge setup in equipment and investment, and it also involves recruiting the right physicians.”
Toevs moved to Terre Haute specifically to set up the trauma program, and said it has been a greatexperience to not only take care of trauma patients, but to address the processes that have improved all aspects of care in the hospital.
“It’s not just taking care of the person in front of me, it’s making sure that everyone who comes through the door gets great care,” Toeves said. “It improves the care not only for trauma patients but for all patients in the hospital because you don’t have two standards of care. So every patient benefits from having a trauma center, even if you are not a trauma patient, because of the processes that we put in place to provide timely critical life-saving care.”
Carrie Malone, director of trauma services, said traumatic injuries come not only from motor vehicle crashes, but from falls, gunshot wounds and motorcycle crashes.
The events last week in Las Vegas showed that it is vital for hospitals to be prepared for large-scale disasters, Toevs noted. Regional is now the only hospital in a 75-mile radius with trauma surgeons on-site around the clock.
In the past, the closest trauma centers were in Indianapolis or at Carle Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. That meant that families had to travel at least 75 miles to reach a loved one who had been transferred for care, and follow-up care was often scheduled out of town, as well.
Union Hospital in Terre Haute was recently verified as a Level 3 trauma center by the ACS, making Union one of 12 Level 3 facilities in the state.
Other Level 2 trauma centers are located in Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend.