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The Nebraska Medical Center To Expand Trauma Services To Provide 24-7 Care

Improved access to quality trauma care seen as the primary reason for expansion

Traumatic injury is the number one killer of Nebraskans under the age of 44, and a leading cause of death in older citizens. In Douglas County alone, more people die from trauma-related accidents than stroke. However, research shows that treatment at a Level 1 trauma center reduces the risk of death by 25%. As the premier health care facility in the region, The Nebraska Medical Center is expanding its trauma services to meet the needs of residents in Omaha and surrounding communities by preparing to provide them with a nationally-recognized Level 1 trauma center that will operate 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week.

“This is the right thing to do for everyone who lives here,” said P.J. Schenarts, MD, trauma medical director at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Although the trauma system we’ve used for the last 20 years is functional, we think we have an obligation to provide something more.”

Since 1993, The Nebraska Medical Center has worked cooperatively with Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center in a combined trauma system, one of the few systems of its kind that operates in this fashion in the United States. The joint program results in two part-time trauma centers that can’t be recognized by the American College of Surgeons – the national accrediting body that is the gold standard for trauma centers in the U.S.

Last year, while external, independent reviewers were re-assessing the Omaha trauma system for the State of Nebraska, they noted that while the current system met patient needs, it could be optimized even further. The surveyors specifically noted in their recommendations: “Most importantly; with outstanding new trauma leadership and executive commitment, The Nebraska Medical Center Trauma Center could function independently and provide outstanding Level 1 care to the greater Omaha community. This option should be explored vigorously.”

“The Nebraska Medical Center has been evaluating the possibility of becoming a Level 1 trauma center for several years now,” said Rosanna Morris, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer of The Nebraska Medical Center. “We have the resources and infrastructure in place to establish a dedicated trauma program. The timing is right. Level 1 trauma centers provide the highest quality of care to injured patients. It’s our duty to do everything we can to provide them with that.”

Health care reform was another factor in the decision to expand trauma services. “Nationally, there has been a constant push for health care systems to operate more efficiently,” said Morris. “This is just one of the ways we can do that. The many specialty services that we provide at The Nebraska Medical Center are also available to our trauma patients and will now be there for them every day of the week, around the clock.”

“The patients are our number one priority,” added Dr. Schenarts. “We provide specialty care in areas like vascular surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric trauma, ophthalmology and burn care every day as it is. It’s the right thing to do to provide access to that care for everyone in the region, regardless of what day of the week it is.”

A certification process will be performed by the American College of Surgeons in order for The Nebraska Medical Center to achieve official Level 1 trauma center verification status. Notice has been given to officials at Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center of the plan to opt out of the current system August 1, 2014. “We appreciate the partnership we’ve had with our colleagues at Alegent Creighton over the years,” said Morris. “We want to thank them for their teamwork and recognize the contribution they’ve made to trauma patients across the region for so many years.”