The two downtown hospitals may be designated this month as the area’s official trauma centers, but Holy Family Hospital won’t be left out of the emergency room business.
If you are shot, stabbed or seriously injured in an auto accident on the North Side, chances are you’ll still end up at Holy Family, the largest medical facility in north Spokane, said Anne McKeon, public relations coordinator for Holy Family.
Last year, Holy Family treated nearly 200 trauma patients. About 10 or 12 of them were transferred to other hospitals, including Sacred Heart and Deaconess medical centers downtown and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
In response to a new state law that aims to improve trauma patient care, most hospitals in Eastern Washington are updating their emergency rooms and gearing up for specific trauma duties.
At Holy Family, however, little is expected to change.
“We will be treating trauma patients the same way we do now,” said Sister Maureen Healy, Holy Family emergency room director. “We already operate on a high level of treatment.”
State health officials will assign trauma designations to 18 hospitals, including Holy Family, in nine Eastern Washington counties this month. These hospitals will be part of a new network designed to respond to the area’s most serious, lifethreatening injuries.
“In order to meet the needs of the community, hospitals need to provide trauma care at different levels,” said Gail Finley Rarey, manager of trauma systems development for the state’s Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Prevention program.
Finley Rarey pointed out that trauma patients are resourceintensive patients. Most hospital emergency room staffs are skilled to handle trauma patients, but because of the lack of resources, “that would tie them up from doing anything else,” she said. “That’s not a realistic role.”
Better trauma care means efficient use of emergency room resources and staff members who are trained and experienced at treating trauma, she said.
Holy Family Hospital is likely to receive a level-three designation, which means the physician on duty has the authority to decide which patients to keep and which to transfer to a level-one or level-two hospital, said Finley Rarey.
Only Harborview in Seattle is expected to receive a level-one designation, while Sacred Heart Medical Center and Deaconess Medical Center downtown are expecting a level two.
Hospitals with a level one or two designation will have all the resources available to treat every kind of trauma injury. However, only level-one hospitals will have in-house surgeons or funding for trauma research.
Holy Family, which has 17 emergency-room beds, is not equipped to handle patients whose injuries require kidney dialysis, pediatric intensive care or openheart surgery. Patients with injuries that require these procedures will be transferred to the downtown hospitals.
“Some people make the assumption that if you’re a level three, you’re not as good as a level one or two,” said Finley Rarey. “That’s not true.
“A region must have different levels of trauma care to efficiently use emergency room resources and staff.”
Deer Park Health Center and Hospital will probably receive the level-four designation it has applied for.
Unlike Holy Family, Deer Park provides only initial stabilization for trauma patients. Most of them are brought there because of accidents on U.S. Highway 395 or U.S. Highway 2.
“Time is a factor, without a doubt. That’s why we don’t take care of them; we just get their vitals going and then helicopter them to Holy Family or downtown,” said Robert Brown, hospital administrator.
All Holy Family emergency center staff members have received formal education in trauma treatment, including courses in cardiac life support and pediatric support. Nine of the 10 physicians are trained to treat trauma patients.
“We’ve strengthened the position that we’ve always had by educating our staff and updating our equipment,” said McKeon.
Most trauma patients who come to Holy Family Hospital usually stay there after stabilization.
The trauma network in the eastern region of the state is essential because of logging and farm accidents that occur in rural areas, said Healy.
Many of Holy Family’s trauma patients are flown in from northeastern Washington and North Idaho.
“To be good at trauma, you have to have good systems for the long distance between the city and rural areas,” said Healy. “It’s important to get to the patients during the critical ‘golden hour,’ when their systems need to be stabilized.”
Holy Family Hospital is equipped with a helicopter pad. When the weather makes it difficult for helicopters to land at one of the downtown hospitals, they often can land at Holy Family, said Healy.
Good communication, standard orders and protocol are essential to making the network a success, said Healy.
State officials are currently reviewing the hospitals in the eastern region. Official trauma designations will be assigned along with specific triage guidelines that will determine where an injured patient should go.
It took health officials two years to establish a plan for the trauma system, said Rarey Finley.
“The best thing about this network is the collaboration taking place between all the hospitals in Spokane so that we don’t duplicate services and to provide the best trauma care,” said Healy.
“There’s much better care for everyone by being part of a big system,” she added. “You know your resources and who can give you the best chance of survival.”