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Bartlett certified as Level IV trauma center

Certification opens door to dedicated state improvement fund

Posted: July 24, 2012 - 2:39am

Bartlett Regional Hospital announced Monday afternoon that the hospital has received certification from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services as a Level IV trauma facility, giving it access to a state fund for trauma care.

Rose Lawhorne, director of Bartlett’s emergency department, said she received the letter bestowing the designation Monday, though the state’s trauma program manager, Julie Rabeau, said the effective date of certification is May 14.

“It basically represents our level of ability to provide care to trauma patients,” said Lawhorne of the certification.

Lawhorne said Bartlett embarked on a review of its practices, including transfer agreements with other hospitals and its documentation process, that lasted about two years, in order to get certified.

“When you jump through those hoops and fill all of the requirements to meet designation, it basically affirms that you’ve done all those things,” Lawhorne explained.

Level IV is the lowest level for a designated trauma center. Bartlett joins Sitka Community Hospital and Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, both in Sitka, among Level IV trauma centers serving Southeast Alaska.

Anchorage boasts the state’s only Level II trauma center, the Alaska Native Medical Center.

A written release from Bartlett’s community relations director, Jim Strader, set out the differences between the levels.

“Level I and II facilities must provide a constantly available level of personnel, equipment and coverage by a full complement of trauma specialists. Level IV hospitals provide initial evaluation, assessment, stabilization and transfer of critical patients to higher level trauma centers,” the release read in part.

Many Bartlett patients in critical condition are transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the nearest Level I trauma center in the United States. In one recent high-profile case, Juneau resident Ruben Pereyra was sent from Bartlett to Harborview last month after being infected by flesh-eating bacteria.

Lawhorne said Bartlett has maintained transfer agreements with hospitals like Harborview for some time. Such agreements are part of the criteria for certification, she noted.

“We did have a system in place,” said Lawthorne. “It was just tightening up our process.”

Now that Bartlett is a certified trauma center, it can draw from a fund set up by the Alaska State Legislature to improve the quality of its trauma care. That fund was established in 2010.

Rabeau said the state anticipates about $100,000 will be available for Level IV trauma centers this year for needs like training, personnel and equipment.

“It varies from year to year,” Rabeau said of the amount available.

Strader said that even though Level IV is the lowest level of designation for a trauma center, Bartlett receiving the certification is notable.

“Most hospitals in Alaska don’t have the trauma designation, so actually getting it is quite the accomplishment,” Strader said.

Rabeau said Bartlett staff “put in a lot of hard work” to meet the criteria, which is developed by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma. She said that staff education and training associated with certification has been shown to improve the quality of care for trauma patients.

“Statistically, it’s been proven that patients that go to designated trauma centers nationally have a 25 percent better outcome than if they’re taken to a non-designated trauma center,” Rabeau said, referring to patients’ comparative survival rates.

Lawhorne said she aims to continue improving Bartlett’s processes. For now, she added, “This is just a really huge success for Bartlett.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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