Yampa Valley Medical Center seeks to upgrade ER designation | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Medical Center seeks to upgrade ER designation

The UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center emergency department will be looking to mover from a level 4 trauma unit to a level 3 trauma unit by next spring. It's a move that doctors and staff say will keep more patients to stay in Steamboat Springs instead of being transferred to front range hospitals.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It's not the kind of thing that most people think about when they arrive at an emergency room.

"Not so sure if the patients will notice, because how many people have encountered the trauma system," Dr. Nathan Anderson, co-director of emergency medicine at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, said. "So on an individual level some people will be affected.”

The nurses and doctors Anderson works with have been busy, and they’ll remain busy working to change YVMC’s trauma designation from level 4 to level 3 by next spring.

He said it's a move the hospital has considered for several years, but rule changes last spring have made the effort more urgent.

Over the past few months, the hospital has gotten surgeons involved in management of the ER, including promoting general surgeon Mark Hermacinski to medical director of trauma services.

The hospital also bought a new trauma data base that allows staff to track local outcomes and add them to a national data base — a requirement for level 3 trauma centers.

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Trauma coordinator Tiffany Moore said YVMC has also been tracking doctors’ response times to make sure they meet the requirements of a level 3 trauma center.

"When we call our doctors to come in, they are held to a different time standard at level 3 than they are at level 4,” Moore said. “I've been tracking them for a year now, and we are already functioning at a level 3.”

Anderson is excited about the changes and believes the ER’s new designation will allow the hospital to continue to provide high-level services to the community.

"We are very cognizant of our capability, and we certainly intend to stay within those capabilities because our underlying principle is what's best for the patient," Anderson said. "If we know right off the bat that we don't have the resources, we have no intention of keeping those patients here."

Hermacinski added that the system used by the state is integral in making sure patients receive the best care possible when they land in the emergency room. He is certain the hospital will be able to change its designation, keep more patients at home and still provide a top level of care.

“The trauma system is a state-wide system, and they have these levels of care to try to optimize patient care, and what we have here in our hospital is the resources to be able to be a level 3 and take care of more of our local patients,” Hermacinski said. “It’s a well set up, state-wide system that we are working within.”

Currently trauma centers are designated at levels between 1 to 5. The lowest level is 5, which is basically a clinic, to level 1 hospitals that often see a high volume of patients each day and are equipped to handle any emergency and specialized services such as pediatrics and severe burn centers. Most level 4 trauma centers are there to stabilize patients and then send them to a higher level facility.

Yampa Valley Medial Center is equipped with operating rooms and an ICU, which would allow the hospital to treat a wider range of patients who come through its doors.

"We are not creating new capacity out of thin air," Anderson said. "These patients we are seeking to keep in the valley are already patients we are capably of managing here.

“When you think about it, if somebody gets hurt or injured, and they get sent 200 miles away to another hospital, it's pretty disruptive to their life in terms of what it does to their family, and financially, it is also disruptive,” Anderson explained. “In examining that, we found out that we do have the capacity, we have the facility and we have the personality to manage these patients. We think we better serve our community if we move to another level so that we can comply with the rules that will keep them (patients) here."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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