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Hospitals striving for Level 3 designation – Gallup Independent – February 28, 2012

Hospitals striving for Level 3 designation

Gallup Independent – February 28, 2012

By Bill Donavan

GALLUP — Local hospital officials announced that Gallup may soon have a level 3 trauma center here.

Roger Gleisner, acting CEO at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital, said the hospital is in the final stages of getting a Level 3 trauma center designation, which will mean that certain types of trauma cases that are sent to other hospitals could be treated here.

The only hospital in this area with a Level 3 designation is in Farmington.

A Level 3 means a hospital has met certain criteria set either by the state or the American College of Surgeons, which includes having staff with the ability to treat most trauma patients.

Jeff Johnson, RMCH’s trauma center director, said the hospital would be required to have the necessary staff on call 24/7 and have them be available within a 30 minute time frame.

The hospital will be able to do that, he said, once it is able to provide backup to the current emergency operating personnel, which “is expected to happen within the next year.”

The benefits to residents in this area once that happens, he said, are enormous since it would mean that many trauma cases are airlifted or transported to Albuquerque and other places would be treated here.

“The quicker you can treat a patient the better,” he said.

Serious head injuries, which require a neurosurgeon or more advanced doctors who are not available here, would still have to be taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, the only Level 1 trauma center in the state.  There are no Level 2 trauma centers in the state.

RMCH has been working toward this goal for the past few years, and Gleisner said that the state has helped by providing a $106,000 grant to help the hospital pay for some of the costs to seek the Level 3 designation.

“If we were to pull out now, we would have to pay that money back,” he said.

He stressed that although the hospital is trying to overcome some financial difficulties, this has not affected the hospital’s efforts to qualify for a Level 3 designation since this can be done without putting on more staff.

But RMCH is not the only area hospital striving for Level 3 designation.

Officials at the Gallup Indian Medical Center are also going through the process of seeking that designation and said they are a year or so away from qualifying for it.

GIMC officials have also said that when they get that designation, they will not turn away anyone because they are non-Native who is picked up with a trauma injury.

When asked if it makes sense for both hospitals in the city to go after a Level 3 designation, he said it will give area residents a “freedom of choice” as to which hospital they want to be taken to.

He said if they don’t make a choice once both hospitals have a Level 3 designation, they would be taken to GIMC but they could opt to be taken to RMCH instead.

Johnson said that another factor to consider in both hospitals seeking Level 3 designation is the fact that GIMC is funded by the federal government and may be affected by “a changing political climate.”