- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - For the past four years, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences trauma center has been building up its arsenal.

Its staff - led by Dr. Ron Robertson, the medical director of trauma, and Terry Collins, the director of trauma services - started recruiting doctors who have completed fellowships in trauma and surgical critical care, beefing up resources and strengthening infrastructure, he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2pEcXnl ).

Now, it has a room dedicated solely for emergency operations and an attending trauma surgeon available at all hours, every day, he said. And, come August, the hospital will have nine trauma physicians, all of whom had the special fellowships.

The academic medical center’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed: It has received national recognition from the Chicago-based American College of Surgeons, which deemed the facility a Level 1 trauma center through Dec. 16, 2019. The hospital is the only adult Level 1 trauma center verified by the group in the state.

It joins Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which has the same verification for pediatric trauma, and another 448 hospitals in the nation, according to the group, which is a scientific and educational association of surgeons who want to improve the quality of care that surgical patients receive.

The verification comes as the hospital continues to see a rise in the number of trauma patients - and the patients are arriving with more severe injuries than in the past, Robertson and Collins said. Trauma is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 45 in Arkansas, and most trauma patients come from car crashes, Collins said.

Robertson called the association’s accolade “a dream come true.”

“Our program has been vetted at the highest level,” he said. “We achieve what most would consider the highest standards.”

The association’s verification program includes a two-day visit and a yearlong review of the care of trauma patients.

The association’s verification also requires leadership in education, research and system planning, as well as complete care from prevention to rehabilitation.

In the 1990s, Robertson was a medical resident at the hospital, studying under Dr. John Cone, who started the academic medical center’s trauma program in 1991. Under Cone - who held Robertson’s current position and served as chief of general surgery - the hospital first earned the association’s verification in 1993.

“However, without a statewide trauma system like there is now, under which the most serious traumas are triaged or referred to a Level 1 trauma center, there wasn’t any point in having that designation,” said Leslie Taylor, the hospital’s vice chancellor of communications and marketing. “The recognition as a Level 1 (center) wasn’t what was important but rather that people received appropriate care and lives were saved.”

So, hospital officials at the time let the recognition lapse and turned their attention to helping the state build a trauma system, Collins said.

In 2009 - under Act 393, which passed in the legislative session that year - the state Department of Health became responsible for the statewide trauma system, which has its own system, of four tiers, with the first level designating the most sophisticated centers. UAMS and Children’s are also designated as Level 1 with the state system.

While the verification does not affect the way UAMS works with the state system, Greg Brown - the Health Department’s branch chief for preparedness and emergency health - said the state should be proud of the academic medical center.

“While (the) designation is not required by the state’s trauma system, having two. … designated trauma centers in Arkansas, Arkansas Children’s Hospital for pediatrics and now UAMS for adult patients, is exciting,” he said. “Increased training and accountability for our hospitals has been shown to reduce trauma deaths.”

Once the state’s trauma system was fortified, Robertson - who is also chief of the Division of Trauma, Critical Care and Acute Care Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine - and Collins returned to what had been a key goal: earning the designation once again.

“I saw what a well-functioning trauma center could do,” he said, referring to his time as a medical resident, “and I wanted to have that available for Arkansas.”

Even before receiving the designation, the hospital bolstered its trauma center, reserving an operating room for emergency care and having a general surgeon on call at all hours. Its trauma center also can perform X-rays or CT scans in-house.

The hospital has benefited from the state trauma system: Under the association’s verification, it has to manage and admit a certain volume of injured patients each year, including the most severely injured, Taylor said.

In March, the hospital had 262 trauma admissions, Robertson said. In 2013, it had 1,600 trauma admissions, and in 2016, it had more than 2,400, according to a news release.

The recognition was “a gift” for Collins, she said.

“We’re very grateful to work for an institution that has allowed us to fulfill our dreams,” she said. “We know that if our friends and family are brought to this facility, they will receive state-of-the-art care.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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