City hospital aims for trauma center designation in 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Susquehanna Regional EMS staff unload a trauma patient at UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport's Emergency Department.

Already two years into the process of becoming a designated trauma center, UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center still has another year to go before that designation is granted or denied. Though some may consider it too early to be confident, officials at the hospital are exactly that.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work,” said Jan Fisher, chief operating officer. “We’re shooting for being ready within the next year, and doing what we need to do to make that happen.”

The journey is a lengthy, labored one, but it’s going by quickly, said Karen Zinobile, administrative director of emergency services.

It started with a letter of interest, submitted to the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation in July of 2016. The foundation is the entity responsible for accrediting trauma centers throughout the commonwealth, Zinobile said.

At the end of this past June, foundation officials visited the hospital for a consultational inspection, pointing out areas the staff could strengthen before the deciding inspection in May, 2019. The inspections, which consist of a full survey of the proposed trauma center and its staff, are based off a “100-page book” full of standards and requirements, Zinobile said.

To prepare, the hospital needed to acquire enough trauma surgeons in-house 24/7, which was accomplished by last August, she said. The radiology and computed tomography, or CT, scan department also must be staffed 24/7.

All nurses on staff are required to participate in a two-day training course, Fisher said. About 60 percent of the nursing staff already has done this, and Fisher said the remainder of the staff will complete the requirement by the end of the year. The subject matter for the course is defined by the foundation, she added.

In addition, the hospital needed to increase the blood supply in its blood bank, and will be required to keep an empty room ready for operations as well as a bed available in the intensive care unit.

After the inspection in May, the foundation’s board will meet in July or August and decide then whether to designate Williamsport a level II trauma center.

Level II trauma centers provide experienced medical services and resources but do not require the research and residency components included with a level I designation, according to the foundation’s website. There is a volume requirement of 350 major trauma patients per year.

If the designation is approved, local trauma victims will have a shorter transportation time to get help, as emergency medical services are required by law to take patients to the nearest trauma center.

“Right now, they may be traveling further because we don’t have a trauma center in our care area,” Fisher said.

“We will be able to care for and keep patients in our community as opposed to transfering them out,” Zinobile added.

If the designation is denied, the hospital will have another year to work toward approval.

Either way, the training and other changes happening at the medical center can only help the community, Fisher said.

“It raises the overall expertise, and the scope of services we provide at Williamsport is expanding,” she said.


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