The Oklahoma Department of Health has issued state hospital ratings designed to save lives. About 2,500 Oklahomans die each year from trauma injuries, which is 20% more than the national average; health officials say we can do better.
KOTV's Tami Marler explains what's being done to improve emergency care. The most significant change is a new ranking program for hospitals throughout the state. Now emergency workers will know exactly where to take you for the best possible treatment. EMSA Paramedic Curtis Brubaker knows, the faster he can get a trauma victim the proper care, the better the patient's chance for survival. A new statewide program that ranks hospitals according to their level of emergency care will make his job a little easier. "We won't have to consider the destinations like we have in the past. When we get a trauma call, we'll know just by the way the city's laid out, which side of the line we're on, and which hospital we'll go to."
All severely injured patients will be transported to one of two hospitals. Those South of 41st and Southeast of I-44 go to St. Francis; anyone North of 41st and Northwest of I-44 will meet a fully qualified St. John staff. Dixie Banner, RN, St. John Trauma Coordinator, "We have trauma surgeons and trauma surgery residents on duty to take care of these patients; we also have rapid response orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesia, we have operating rooms on standby 24 hours a day; 7 days a week." John Sacra, MD, Medical Control Board: "It takes a big commitment of resources and personnel to have an organized trauma team in place, ready to receive and stabilize and care for the seriously injured patient." John Sacra says a new statewide ranking program will not take away from other hospitals. "But by having an organized trauma team in place, we know that it's not only going to be excellent, but it's going to be timely and consistent as well." St. John officials estimate its new ranking will boost the number of severe trauma patients that come through its ER, but they've been preparing for the challenge for years. "I think it's a good thing; because it shows as a state, that we are dedicated to taking better care of trauma patients and getting the patient to the right facility in the right amount of time." And there are still plenty of patients to go around. "It's not uncommon at any time of the day to pull into any one of the hospitals here and see four or five, maybe even six or eight ambulances sometimes stacked up in an ER."
Here's how the ranking system works. Level 1 hospitals have an Emergency room doctor in-house 24-hours; as well as a trauma team, with anesthesiologist. St. Francis is Level 1. St. John is Oklahoma's only Level 2 facility, with a 24-hour ER doctor and a trauma surgeon that can arrive within 20-30 minutes. Hillcrest and Tulsa Regional are Level 3. They have no clear trauma team, and they're not required to report to trauma cases through a state registry. State officials say the next step is to bring rural hospitals into the program, using helicopters to get severely injured patients to the designated center of excellence.