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Dr. Mark Lindquist stands in an emergency trauma room that has been fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The ER has been designated as a Level III trauma unit. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

St. Mary's awarded Level III trauma status

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Although basically following the guidelines for a Level III trauma hospital for years, St. Mary's Innovis Health has officially been recognized with the classification.

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"The state of Minnesota has made the push to have a goal of all hospitals in the state registered as trauma certified based on the services they provide," Tom Alinder, RN, said. Alinder serves as St. Mary's ER manager and trauma coordinator.

The Minnesota Department of Health designated St. Mary's with the Level III system.

"The ultimate goal is how to improve trauma care throughout the state," Alinder said.

There are four classifications for trauma hospitals. Level I would be hospitals like Hennepin County and St. Paul Regional that include research and specialized services.

Level II would be like Innovis Health and MeritCare in Fargo and St. Cloud's hospital that have many of the same resources as the Level I, but not to that extent -- not as much research done and not as much specialized services.

Level III, like St. Mary's, includes dedicated emergency physicians, an on-call surgery staff, X-ray, labs, etc. And the Level IV classification would be for those hospitals that don't necessarily have an emergency physician on duty 24 hours a day, but have one that can respond within a given amount of time.

Level IV is for those where patients are prepped and stabilized, and "no time is wasted with a patient, but ultimately, they are not keeping the patient at that facility," he explained.

To apply for the classification, Alinder said, "it's a bit of a lengthy application." Included in the application are the essential and desired elements of a trauma unit.

"There is a resolution by the hospital board demonstrating the (intent) for trauma care," he said.

The application also looks at the capabilities in-house, for example CT scanners, X-ray, labs, on-call operations, adult and pediatric equipment, education for staff and the public, and policies and procedures in place -- "so not to delay anyone's care," he said.

"Most we've had in place for many, many years."

Dr. Mark Lindquist, ER medical director said, "St. Mary's Innovis Health is now one of 20 Level III trauma centers in the state of Minnesota. Designation came after three years of hard work ... and indicates the high level of commitment to state-of-the-art trauma care at St. Mary's Innovis Health."

Last year, the emergency department at St. Mary's Innovis Health saw just over 15,000 visits. The ER has a private 7-bed, department with two trauma bays and offers state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.

Every three years, the hospital will be reviewed to ensure it is still in fitting with the Level III qualifications.

"I don't see it being difficult to maintain it," Alinder said.

Moving up the scale to a Level II is maybe "long, long-term, down the road," Alinder said, but it depends on community growth as well as hospital growth.

"It has certainly been very, very positive," Alinder said of being named Level III. "We hold ourselves up to do that. A lot of ER staff and doctors are committed, 'yup, we're going to do this.'

"We see it as a big pat on the back."

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