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Northeast Georgia Medical designated as Level II trauma center

Hospital will be able to accept more seriously injured patients

POSTED: December 16, 2013 1:22 p.m.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville has received a long-coveted trauma designation from the state, increasing the number of seriously injured patients who can be treated at the hospital, potentially saving lives.

Officials said a survey team from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Emergency Medical Services & Trauma Office determined the hospital has qualified for the Level II designation, based on criteria set forth by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.

“We are thrilled to receive this designation,” said Brad Nurkin, medical center president. “This is a crowning achievement for our organization and represents the culmination of more than four years of work towards this tremendous goal.”

Nurse practitioner Deb Battle, director of trauma and acute care surgery service at the hospital, said the designation means emergency medical responders “and more importantly, patients” have access to a hospital with “the full range of trauma resources available 24/7 to handle all types of traumatic injury, no matter how big or how small.”

The hospital announced the designation Monday, following a Dec. 5 visit to the hospital to follow up “on opportunities they identified during their visit in May,” said Dr. John H. Adamski II, the hospital’s medical director of trauma and acute care surgery.

“These specifically include some structures and processes we needed to strengthen based on (the College of Surgeons) guidelines.”

In reacting to the news, Adamski said, “While we are extremely proud of what this means for our organization, we are even more aware of (the) designation’s true meaning — better access and higher-quality trauma care for the patients we serve in Northeast Georgia.”

Dr. Priscilla Strom, a surgeon with The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville, said the designation effort “was a comprehensive team effort, as physicians from many of our medical specialties worked together toward the goal of improving care for our community.”

The announcement came much sooner than expected.

After the Dec. 5 visit, officials said they didn’t know when the hospital would receive an official decision letter.

After the team’s visit in May, “we received (a notice) about six weeks later, so we expect it will be in that same time frame or less,” hospital spokeswoman Melissa Tymchuk said at the time.

Georgia has four trauma designations, with the highest being Level I.

Those hospitals, which include Atlanta Medical Center and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, “offer the greatest level of comprehensive trauma care, from prevention through rehabilitation,” according to the Georgia Department of Community Health. Tymchuk said the biggest difference is that Level I centers must be teaching hospitals.

A Level II center “generally can provide the same level of clinical care as a Level I, but usually does not have the focus on research, education and systems planning,” the state says.

“Some patients with very complex injuries may require transfer to a Level I center.”

Still, Strom has said, she believes the designation for Northeast Georgia Medical Center “will save lives.”

The mortality rate from trauma in Georgia is 20 percent higher than other states, and “that’s due to the fact that right now there are ... regions without designated trauma centers,” Adamski has said.

And with Northeast Georgia’s hills and valleys, making it difficult to reach some injured patients, “you’re already behind the eight ball in terms of transporting someone down to another facility,” he said.

A Level II designation for Northeast Georgia Medical Center would be a first for the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission’s Region 2, which covers Northeast Georgia.

The nearest Level II centers to Hall are in North Fulton, Lawrenceville and Athens.

Now that the hospital has received the designation, it can expect more reviews.

A team would “come back at least every three years ... to review our trauma program and ensure it continues to meet designation requirements,” Adamski said.

However, the group “can come for a site visit at any time, and we will be required to submit reports to the state every quarter.”


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