UPDATED: Cy-Fair hospitals pursue trauma center upgrades

The Cypress-Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital works with PHI Air Medical to transfer patients to the hospital's trauma center, often from rural areas such as Brenham.

The Cypress-Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital works with PHI Air Medical to transfer patients to the hospital's trauma center, often from rural areas such as Brenham.

Updated July 28

As population growth continues to drive health care demands in the Cy-Fair area, two hospitals are working to bolster their ability to handle trauma patients.

Although the Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital on Steepletop Drive has been providing Level II trauma services in the Cy-Fair area since March, the hospital announced intentions to formally upgrade from a Level III to a Level II center at a July 27 event.

"We have been working on this project for the better part of 10 years," hospital CEO Terry Wheeler said. "We've had great support from the community and our [emergency medical services] folks. For all of us that live in the Cy-Fair area, we know that we're going to be taking care of our friends and neighbors, and we're going to be saving lives. That makes it more meaningful because it's people we know and love."

Meanwhile, the new Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital on Hwy. 290 in Cypress—which opened to patients March 31—is pursuing a Level III designation.

To upgrade to Level II, CFMCH needs to be able to ensure a trauma surgeon is available within 15 minutes of every call, Chief Operating Officer Naman Mahajan said. A Level III center must have a trauma surgeon available within 30 minutes, he said.

“To go from a Level III to a Level II center, we essentially have to have a dedicated trauma surgeon in-house 24/7,” he said. “Anytime an [emergency medical services] provider calls from the field and says they are bringing a trauma Level II patient, that surgeon is already physically in our building and has no other responsibilities other than treating trauma patients.”

In March, CFMCH brought on a primary and backup trauma surgeons to work in-house along with an operating room crew dedicated to trauma calls. The crew is made up of new staff members and a number of other specialists, Mahajan said, including an orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons.

For Memorial Hermann to reach Level III, it must meet several other requirements in addition to having a trauma surgeon available within 30 minutes. For example, it must provide 24-hour immediate coverage by emergency physicians and the prompt availability of general surgeons and anesthesiologists.

Memorial Hermann Cypress CEO Heath Rushing said it can be up to a two-year process to receive the designation.

“Trauma needs throughout the area are only going to grow,” he said. “We have a committed staff and group of surgeons to help support that journey.”

Improving trauma centers—which handle everything from car accident victims to elderly residents who sustain injuries in their homes—has the direct result of saving lives, Mahajan said. Previously, Cy-Fair patients in need of Level II services had to be transferred to the medical center downtown, he said.

“For an ambulance to take a patient from Cypress using [Hwy.] 290, it can take 40-50 minutes in rush hour traffic,” he said. “That’s time a patient is not getting the intervention they need to be lifesaving.”

The surveying process

To receive a designation from the state of Texas, a hospital must first demonstrate its abilities to the American College of Surgeons. The first step is a demonstration period of one year. After compiling a year’s worth of clinical data, ACS surveys the facility to see if the hospital has the capabilities to serve its community.

“They talk to trauma surgeons, nursing staff and other departments,” Mahajan said.

In addition to having a trauma surgeon on-site 24/7, CFMCH has made several other necessary improvements, including increasing the capacity of its on-site blood bank and implementing new technology. The hospital purchased new trauma stretchers with built-in X-rays to minimize the movement of trauma patients as well as a bedside ultrasound device that allows a surgeon to identify internal bleeding and injuries.

Although CFMCH has not been formally designated as a Level II center, it is still capable of serving patients with Level II needs while it prepares for the survey, Mahajan said.

“We are already dealing with Level II issues because we were the closest most appropriate trauma center,” he said.

ACS recommends having a Level I trauma center for every 1 million people. With roughly 7 million people in the Greater Houston area, Mahajan said there is a clinical need for more programs, especially in Cy-Fair.

“Although we say we’re part of Houston, the Cy-Fair area is a large city itself with more than 800,000 people,” he said. “We have a long-standing relationship to meet the clinical needs of the community.”

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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