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Hospital's trauma center designation renewed

January 26, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A state group has renewed the designation of the Washington County Hospital Trauma Center, which was closed for six months in 2002.

Mary Beachley, director of the office of hospital programs for the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, said Sunday that the group's action means the hospital can continue to operate a Level III Adult Trauma center for at least another five years.

Every five years, the state group goes through a verification process with each trauma center, she said.

The panel examining the Washington County Trauma Center, of which Beachley was a member, found no problems with the center, she said.

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The purpose of the state review is to make sure the trauma center is maintaining patient-care standards established by the state, Dr. Karl Riggle, administrative director of the Washington County Hospital Trauma Center, said Thursday.

The hospital closed its Level II trauma center June 1, 2002, after communications broke down between hospital administrators and the surgeons whose part-time work at the trauma center was crucial to the operation.

A key to the agreement to reopen on Oct. 2, 2002, was downgrading the center to a Level III center, which allows surgeons to be on call instead of being at the hospital 24 hours a day, as required for a Level II center. Some surgeons complained they were getting burned out by the trauma work on top of their busy private practices.

As a recertified level III trauma program, trauma surgeons and specialty surgeons are required to respond to a trauma call within 30 minutes.

The center's average response time is 10 minutes, hospital officials said.

Due to the level change, the panel made a point to check on the response time, finding that in many instances the surgeons arrived at the hospital before patients, Beachley said.

Riggle said there has been no reduction in quality of care at the trauma center.

As part of the state's review process, the center compiled a package of information about 1 inch thick that was given to panel members, he said.

Panel members spent a day at the center in May, observing operations and asking questions about patients' charts and records, he said

The trauma center serves Washington and Frederick counties, southern Pennsylvania and Berkeley County, W.Va., the hospital said in the release.

"We received approximately 838 patients between Nov. 1, 2002, and Oct. 31, 2003," Dr. Marc Kross, trauma center surgeon-in-chief, said in the release. "About 95 percent of those patients received all of their care at Washington County Hospital so they did not have to leave their families for trauma care."

Riggle said the hospital is pleased by the state group's decision, which came in late 2003.

"It indicates that the quality of patient care remains excellent thanks to the dedication of our trauma center staff and to the medical staff for their commitment to our program," Riggle said in a prepared statement. "It also confirms the solid working relationship we have with the emergency medical service providers in our region."

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