Yampa Valley Medical Center ER achieves higher trauma designation | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Medical Center ER achieves higher trauma designation

The UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center emergency department has been designated by the state as a Level III trauma center.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The emergency department at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs is taking patient care to a new level after being designated as a Level III trauma center by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Health Facilities and Emergency Medical Services Division on Feb. 9.

"It's like studying for a final exam and then passing it," said Nathan Anderson, YVMC emergency medicine physician and trauma co-director. "Of course, there is a tremendous sense of relief, but there should also be a sense of that this was the expected outcome. We prepared for it for a long time, we have been ready for it for a longer time, so yeah, it's a lot of work done."

The physician said the process of moving from a Level IV to a Level III trauma designation required staff and physicians to examine, upgrade and expand many of procedures and processes — not only in the emergency departments, but in other departments that would be impacted by the higher designations.

"If we are going to be keeping more patients and sicker patients, this is going to involve a lot more than just the emergency department staff," Anderson said. "It involves the ICU staff, the pediatric staff, the radiology staff and the lab staff. Each of those departments in turn had to examine their processes and their procedures to make sure that they were up to keeping these patients.

“It basically was a ground-up rebuild, using a lot of the old parts, but also creating a lot of new parts, and making sure that everybody is onboard with what we are doing, and everybody is training in what we are doing," Anderson explained.   

Anderson said the emergency department leadership will take a moment to celebrate the accomplishment, but they will be back to work tomorrow fine tuning, improving and making sure that the care the community needs is there when they need it.

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He said the new designation could mean the difference between a patient staying in the Yampa Valley or being transferred to a Front Range hospital with a higher trauma designation. Emergency rooms in the state of Colorado have designations between level V (the lowest) to level I. 

Level V trauma centers offer basic emergency room facilities to implement Advanced Trauma Life Support protocols. Patients requiring more comprehensive care must be transferred to a Level 1, 11 or III trauma center.

On the other end of the spectrum, a Level I trauma center offers 24-hour, in-house coverage by general surgeons and prompt availability of care in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial, pediatric and critical care. 

The new Level III designation means that the emergency department at Yampa Valley Medical Center will be able to keep trauma patients with hemodynamically-stable multi-system traumas, trauma patients on ventilators and trauma patients with non-surgical brain bleeds, following a consultation with a level I or Level II facility.

"We see trauma every day, and we see a lot of it for a town and hospital of our size due to the active lifestyle of our community," said Tiffany Moore, RN and trauma coordinator at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, in a news release. "We want to be able to treat and keep more patients in the Yampa Valley instead of having to send them to another facility. As a Level III trauma center, we can now do that."

Anderson said his department took pride in not only passing the review process but in getting a perfect review. As a result, the hospital received an immediate and automatic upgrade to level III.

"A lot of patients are not going to see any difference,” Anderson said. “It's the same people, the same facility, the same tools. What we have are new procedures and new permissions from the state to keep people that we might have sent before, and also we are going to be capturing patients from a broader distribution geographically. We have already had a couple of patients that were brought in because of our new, higher level."

Anderson said the physicians and staff will evaluate each case on its own merit, and if it is decided that the patient’s outcome would be better served by a higher level trauma center, they will not hesitate to make the transfer.

"We are authorized to keep more people in our facility, but the number one driver is patient safety,” Anderson said. “We always strive for the proper care of the patients, and if that entails transfer, transfer is what is going to happen."

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