Eddie Cheatham

Eddie Cheatham

The Arkansas Trauma System, which the legislature authorized through Act 393 of 2009, saves more than 200 lives and $237 million a year, according to the most recent Health Department update.

The trauma system ensures that accident victims are taken as soon as possible to a hospital that best can address their needs. That is not always the nearest hospital. In the past, ambulances usually took trauma victims to the closest hospital, and if the patient needed a higher level of care it sometimes took precious hours arranging a transfer from one hospital to another.

Now, ambulances are connected with the statewide trauma system through modern communications technology and technicians know immediately whether they should bypass the nearest hospital and transport the victim to a hospital that may be further away but has a higher level of care.

To date, 70 hospitals are participating. They include five Level I hospitals, five Level II hospitals, 22 Level III and 39 Level IV facilities.

Also, 114 Emergency Medical Service providers participate, which makes them eligible for funding for training and equipment. There are 23 training sites in the Arkansas trauma system for new emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Level IV hospitals can stabilize a critically injured person, but transfer to a higher level trauma center is usually required. Level III hospitals can treat mild and moderately severe injuries, and most trauma victims can be adequately treated at a Level III center.

Level II hospitals provide comprehensive clinical care to the same degree as a Level I hospital. Level I hospitals are considered community resources in that they provide education and outreach programs in their neighborhoods, and they conduct research.

Victims of injury are admitted much more quickly, in large part because of improvements in the statewide communications network that connect trauma centers and EMS providers.

According to the Health Department update, hospitals in the trauma network have changed long-standing policies so that now their medical staff can immediately accept patients, and an admitting specialist doesn’t have to be notified and therefore doesn’t have to spend time in discussions to arrive at a decision about whether to accept or reject the patient.