August 27, 2009
The state today awarded University Medical Center Brackenridge and Dell Children’s Medical Center Level I trauma designation, a status they had coveted for years.
Kathy Perkins, an assistant commissioner of health at the Department of State Health Services, handed the certificates to trauma doctors with the Seton Family of Hospitals, which runs both hospitals, before a packed news conference. The news, announced at Seton’s administrative offices — on the Dell hospital campus, was greeted with whoops and a big round of applause from hospital staff, leaders of health organizations and other local dignitaries that included state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.
Perkins called it “truly remarkable and historic” to award two Level I designations on the same day to two hospitals in the same system. Dell Children’s is only the 17th pediatric hospital in the nation to earn the Level I status, according to Dr. Todd Maxson, medical director of trauma services at Dell Children’s.
Both hospitals will have specialists in every trauma field on call 24 hours a day, something that wasn’t required under their previous Level II trauma center designation. That will include specialists in digit reattachment, plastic and reconstructive surgery.
“The real winners are the citizens of Austin and Central Texas … Any injury you have, we can take care of it,” said Dr. Carlos Brown, medical director of trauma services at Brackenridge.
Brown and Maxson accepted the framed certificates from Perkins on behalf of their hospitals.
The two hospitals join 12 others around the state with Level I trauma centers, according to the state health department’s Web site. The others are in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Tyler, Temple and Lubbock (some cities have more than one).
Level I is the highest trauma level designation and enhances a hospital’s prestige and the services it provides. Hospital officials said Austin was the biggest city in the United States without a Level I trauma center. They believe the designation boosts Austin’s chances of landing a medical school. Most Level I trauma centers are linked to medical schools; Austin also is one of the largest cities without a medical school.
University Medical Center is the only trauma center for Travis and 10 other counties in the region. Dell Children’s serves a 46-county region.
Level I and II centers provide similar levels of patient care, but Level I centers are the most comprehensive, provide the most complex medical services and are distinguished by the amount of research they do. Level 1 trauma centers also provide more education and outreach to communities on preventing injuries, Brown said.
“It increases your ability to recruit new surgeons,” he said in an interview.
Charles Barnett, president and CEO of Seton, said Seton’s goal when it took over University Medical Center and Children’s 14 years ago was to win Level 1 designation.
Earlier this year, the Travis County Healthcare District contributed $350,000 in tax money to help achieve the status. That money enabled University Medical Center to establish a reconstructive and plastic surgery center that can reattach fingers, toes and limbs — emergencies that cause 60 patients a year to go for help to Houston, Dallas and other cities with Level I trauma centers, according to Greg Hartman, a Seton senior vice president. Seton officials called the program the final test they needed to win Level I trauma center status.
The American College of Surgeons verifies that a hospital’s track record and processes have reached Level I status, which has been done. Then, the Department of State Health Services gives final approval.