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Park Rapids designated as Level 4 Trauma hospital

For a severely injured person, the time between sustaining an injury and receiving definitive care is the most important predictor of survival. Chance of survival within this "golden hour" diminishes with time.

Trauma is the third leading cause of death in Minnesota, which is why the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) developed a comprehensive statewide trauma system.

St. Joseph's Area Health Services Emergency Department (ED), Park Rapids, has been designated as a Level 4 trauma center by the MDH, having met standards of commitment, clinical and equipment resources and special training by staff and physicians. The process included an outside review of the hospital's resources and capabilities to care for trauma patients.

The Level 4 designation is valid for three years, and St. Joseph's will participate in the program's continuous performance improvement process.

St. Joseph's voluntarily participated in the intense designation process to become part of Minnesota's statewide trauma system. Hospitals that don't participate in the trauma system cannot receive trauma patients unless there is not a designated trauma hospital within 30 minutes of the scene.

"This designation makes St. Joseph's part of a statewide trauma system designed to ensure that severely injured people are promptly transported and treated at trauma hospitals appropriate to the severity of the injuries," says Deb Haagenson, St. Joseph's Vice President of Patient Care and member of the Minnesota Board of Nursing. "The goal is to match the needs of the patient with the resources of the facility as quickly as possible."

Based on specific criteria and system support, many patients can be treated at St. Joseph's. When necessary, Minnesota's new trauma system supports efficient assessment, stabilizations and transfer for patients who require greater resources, Haagenson adds.

Dr. Jane Churchill, Emergency Department Medical Director, says the statewide trauma system is a wonderful thing for patients.

"Trauma patients are assured they will be treated the same way through the state and that automatic response teams and necessary requirements are followed when trauma codes are called," Churchill explains. Credentialing for ED staff and physicians has also been elevated, she notes.

Brenda Huwe, Emergency Department Manager and Trauma Program Manager, notes that great care is being made to document processes, record and track data, and review and improve new quality standards as the trauma system is put into practice.

"Patients can be assured that there are approved protocols in place, and that care received will be consistent from hospital to hospital throughout the state," Huwe says.

Minnesota's Commissioner of Health, Dr. Sanne Magnan, says the goal of the trauma system is to decrease injured patients' time to receive care by making sure their medical needs are appropriately matched with hospital resources.

"With the designation of St. Joseph's as a Level 4 trauma hospital, we are getting closer to our goal of ensuring that seriously injured Minnesotans have access to an organized system of trauma care wherever they are in the state," Dr. Magnan states.

On average, trauma claims the lives of 2,400 Minnesotans annually. States with trauma systems have seen survival rates increase by 15 to 20 percent. Wide-scale participation in the voluntary trauma system ensures that a statewide, cooperative effort is in place to care for seriously injured patients.