UMC to discontinue level 1 trauma care
Tuesday October 9, 2001
Service could remain available if another local hospital agrees to enter partnership
UMC will no longer offer level one trauma care at year's end if no other Southern Arizona hospital joins it in a partnership to offer level one trauma care.
Officials said yesterday University Medical Center does not have the staff or space to be Southern Arizona's only level one trauma center - which has the capacity to efficiently handle any medical emergency.
UMC's decision comes two weeks after the Tucson Medical Center announced it would be closing its level one trauma center because of financial losses.
"We looked at staff and resources; it became clear at the present time UMC cannot be the only level one trauma center in town," said Dr. Harvey Meislin, acting head of emergency medicine department at UMC.
Meislin said UMC is willing to make a long-term commitment to eventually provide top-level emergency care to the entire region, but may not be able to open such a center for two to three years.
UMC regularly re-directs ambulances en route to its emergency room because its emergency room is swamped.
Meislin said the emergency facility is built to handle 50,000 patients a year. This year, he estimates the center will treat 65,000 patients.
"The issue is, we need a partner," he said.
Meislin said TMC, which has offered level one trauma care for 16 years, would be the best candidate for the partnership if money to continue service can be found.
TMC is currently involved in a partnership with UMC. John Duval, chief operating officer of UMC, said the partnership with TMC could continue if $3.3 million could be allocated to prolong TMC's level one trauma care.
"We would love to see the joint program that has been running continuously for six years continue," he said.
"TMC has said they need to have a readiness cost to continue as a trauma care provider," Duval said. "If that money is found, that gives us time to work with city, county and federal governments to gain funding."
"The purpose of a level one trauma center is to surround the patient with all areas of medical expertise," he said.
He said if a hospital were to step down to a community-type hospital, a patient spends more time waiting for medical care.
"When you're waiting, you give up more of that golden hour," he said.