Trauma patients in Montgomery County will no longer have to be transferred to the Texas Medical Center for critical care as two local hospitals work to become the first Level II trauma centers in the county.
Conroe Regional Medical Center and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital have both taken the necessary steps to grow from Level III to Level II trauma centers. The change means the hospitals are now able to treat patients who experience serious brain, spinal cord or major orthopedic injuries that would ordinarily require a transfer to the Texas Medical Center about 40 miles away.
“That saves time, and for trauma time is life. It also saves a tremendous amount of money because it reduces the need for us to helicopter so many people to the Texas Medical Center,” said Randy Johnson, Montgomery County Hospital District CEO.
PATH TO LEVEL II
The CRMC started to offer the services of a Level II trauma center in December 2014—when the hospital went into “in pursuit” status. Although the hospital is still classified as a Level III
center, the “in pursuit” status allows first responders to take trauma patients to the hospital for critical care while the hospital waits for Level II approval by the American College of Surgeons.
To attain the designation, each hospital added full-time specialty surgeons, bolstered its on-call surgical staff and expanded their emergency rooms.
Conroe Regional CEO Matt Davis said the ACS has already notified Conroe Regional that it meets the criteria for a Level II trauma center, and the hospital is waiting for the Texas Department of State Health Services to approve the designation change. Davis said he anticipates the new designation to become official this year.
Similarly, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital also went into “in pursuit” status in March. CEO Josh Urban said the hospital has been receiving Trauma Level II patients ever since, and he hopes to receive Level II designation by the end of 2017.
“It is a pretty big commitment from a resource perspective both financially and the recruitment of physicians and upgrades to the facility,” Urban said.
According to the Texas Trauma Registry, about 4 out of every 1,000 adults will require admission to a hospital for trauma care. Davis said demand for high-level trauma services will increase as Montgomery County grows, and about 2,000 local residents are seriously injured each year.
Currently, the only trauma centers in the Greater Houston area that can treat high-level trauma patients are Ben Taub Hospital and Memorial Hermann Hospital—located next to one another in the Texas Medical Center—as well as the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
“In general, the Greater Houston area should have six or more major trauma centers, so the Greater Houston area has been underserved for decades,” Urban said.
Davis said the Montgomery County hospitals also serve residents of nearby counties.
“People injured in outlying counties have relied on these busy trauma centers [in Houston],” Davis said. “[Now] the majority of these patients will not need to be sent to those trauma centers.”
Johnson said having the two hospitals operating as Level II trauma centers helps the hospital district operate emergency response services more efficiently and improves the chances a critically injured patient will survive.
Urban said because trauma patients can take long periods of time to recover family members will not have to struggle to care for injured relatives.
“Trauma patients can be in the hospital for months, so if you have a family member that is hurt, you are not traveling back and forth to care for them at the medical center,” Urban said.