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Hospital trauma task force meets

June 28, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

At its first meeting, the 10 members of the Washington County Hospital Trauma Task Force agreed to work to re-open the hospital's trauma center as soon as possible, hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said Thursday.

The Wednesday night meeting was closed to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for July 3.

Task force members include the trauma program's assistant director, the Washington County Health System Inc. president, three members of the Health System board, a state delegate and others. The Health System is the hospital's parent company.

Also on the task force is Dr. Robert Bass, director of the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services System, which oversees trauma center designations.

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When announcing the creation of the task force last week, Washington County Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer James Hamill said the task force had the option to recommend the trauma center remain closed, but he did not think that would happen.

Since June 1, when the hospital closed its trauma center, some high-priority patients who would have been taken to the local trauma center have been taken instead to hospitals in Baltimore or Bethesda, Md.

Within the next week, task force members will meet with a group of physicians representing the trauma center specialties as part of the effort to reopen the center as soon as possible, Theriault said.

The task force is seeking ways to restore trauma care on a short-term basis while containing to work on a more permanent solution, she said.

During the meeting, task force members reviewed the State of Maryland regulations for Level II and Level III trauma programs, Theriault said.

Washington County Hospital had been a trauma center since 1981 and a Level II center since 1998.

A Level II designation requires that at least one trauma surgeon be at the hospital 24 hours a day.

The less stringent Level III designation requires that a trauma surgeon be able to reach the hospital within 30 minutes.

Task force member Dr. Frank J. Collins, assistant director of the hospital's trauma division, has said the hospital should switch to a Level III designation.

The task force also "discussed the various issues related to the current status of the trauma program, including contracts and reimbursement for physicians who take trauma calls," Theriault said.

She would not elaborate.

Hamill has said the hospital gave up the trauma designation because it could no longer promise 24-hour coverage for trauma surgery, a prerequisite for Level II trauma care.

Hamill has said the decision to close the trauma center was made when the hospital learned on May 28 that one-fourth of the 60 trauma surgeon shifts for June were not covered.

It costs about $6.2 million a year to run the trauma center, Theriault said. The hospital has been subsidizing the trauma center's operation by about $1.9 million a year, hospital officials have said.

The hospital's trauma center was part of a statewide system established through the efforts of the late heart surgeon R Adams Cowley, who discovered the importance of stabilizing trauma victims within what he called "the golden hour," the first hour after an injury is incurred.

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