During the strategic planning workshop in the hospital’s Stuenkel Conference Center on Thursday and Friday, the Trauma Commission heard reports on how regional trauma response plans can be improved.
These plans identify resources and spell out protocols aimed at getting a badly injured person the most effective help as fast as possible.
The trauma plan for Region 1 — a 16-county area that includes Floyd, Bartow, Chattooga, Gordon, and Polk counties — was formally presented to the commission on Friday and received unanimous approval from the board.
It was crafted by the Regional Trauma Advisory Council, a subcommittee of the Region 1 Emergency Medical Services Council, which adopted it in November.
“On behalf of the RTAC, I can tell you that we’re relieved to get to this point,” said Region 1 EMS Program Director David Foster, who made the presentation. “But we all understand that this is just the start of the work.”
With no Level I trauma centers in Northwest Georgia, the need to get a proper plan in action is an important aspect for future patient care.
Floyd Medical Center in Rome and Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton have Level II ratings, the second-highest certification. Erlanger, in Chattanooga, Tenn., is the closest Level I center and is participating in Region I’s plan.
“The Georgia Trauma Commission is all about developing better trauma care for all of Georgia and I feel like we’re making remarkable progress,” said Kurt Stuenkel, a trauma commission member and CEO of Floyd Medical Center.
“As one of two Level II trauma centers in the region, we want to see patients get to where they need to be in the interest of patient care,” Stuenkel said. “The regional trauma plans are the mechanism the make sure that happens.”
Foster spoke to the board about the obstacles of creating a unified plan for a geographic area that includes mountainous terrain.
He also explained that Northwest Georgia pediatric trauma patients have to be diverted to either Erlanger or to another hospital in Atlanta, and problems arise when each one differs in procedure. A pediatric field triage and destination guideline is one of the parts of the Region 1 plan that is being worked on.
“This is a paradigm shift for our pre-hospital folks,” Foster said, referring to the EMS services that arrive on the scene of an emergency first. “And it’s not going to happen overnight.”
The idea of regional trauma plans is fairly new and among Thursday’s highlights was an evaluation of the three in middle and southeast Georgia that were put into action as a pilot program.
At least one of the regions had trouble using the central Trauma Communication Center, which was established by the Georgia General Assembly in 2007 along with the Trauma Commission.
The center provides a 24-hour-a-day resource for EMS services and hospitals looking for the nearest trauma center that is best equipped for certain patients.
“There has got to be some education on the use of the TCC and what the advantages are,” said Trauma Commission member Elaine Frantz. “And there has got to be a lot of education done in order for us to get from ‘A’ to ‘B.’”
TCC manager John Cannady discussed the situation during his report to the board on Thursday.
“Education is going to be the biggest challenge going forward,” he said. “We’re not a dispatch center. We want to become more of a communications and resource center.”