“There’s other areas of Fort Bend County that also experience this—that also don’t have hospitals within their jurisdiction—so it’s not abnormal,” Temple said. “We deal with it very well.”
The bigger issue facing Fort Bend County EMS, he said, is the county does not have a hospital with a major trauma designation or better.
Hospitals can apply for a trauma-level designation by fulfilling the necessary staffing requirements, data tracking, state inspections and approval. In Texas, there are 296 total trauma-designated facilities, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
A trauma Level IV is classified as basic, according to the DSHS. Level IV is the lowest designation with Level I—known as a comprehensive trauma center—serving as the highest.
St. Luke’s officials said hospitals typically start as a Level IV facility, and each additional level requires significantly more resources.
In the Houston area, there are two Level I hospitals, both located at the Medical Center. Temple said there are no Level II or major trauma centers in or near Fort Bend County, and the closest Level III, also known as an advanced center, is at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital.
“[At a Level IV trauma center] what they’re going to do is they’re going to stabilize you, and then they’re going to ship you to a higher-level hospital,” Temple said. “Or, if you need surgical interventions, they’re going to ship you there to have surgery.”
Fort Bend County EMS is the primary medical responder for most emergencies in the county, and local fire departments will also administer care at the scene.
Andres Cortes, clinic manager for JW Family Medicine in Fulshear, said thankfully, there is no shortage of medical clinics, urgent care clinics or emergency rooms in the area. Memorial Hermann Urgent Care Fulshear and Katy Emergency Room are just two of several options for residents in need of care, he said.
But when a patient has a need that qualifies as traumatic, Cortes said, they often need to go to a bigger hospital, which might require being flown to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
“Any city anywhere across the nation that has close access to a major trauma hospital, that’s an amazing benefit for those residents,” he said. “You don’t know where emergencies are going to strike, so there’s always a need for a closer trauma center.”
Temple said Fort Bend County’s rapidly growing population, which is estimated to reach 860,000 in the 2020 census and surpass 1 million people within the next several years, further necessitates the need for a more advanced level of trauma care in the county.
“It’s great having the Texas Medical Center next door,” Temple said. “It’s a short transport, generally. However, it would be definitely behoove us to be ahead of the ball by having a trauma center established here within the county.”
Furthermore, Temple compared the Fort Bend County region to Montgomery County in North Houston, which has two Level II hospitals.
“That region looks very similar to a growing Fort Bend County, but they’ve already took the ball and moved ahead a little bit by having Level II trauma centers, whereas we’re stuck with basic trauma centers,” Temple said.