June 23, 2003 - Virginia Beach, Virginia - Effective Friday, June 27th at 7 a.m., Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital's voluntary state trauma center designation will transition from a Level II to a Level III Trauma Center.
This action was confirmed at a Sentara Healthcare Board of Directors meeting today. The change is due to the inability to secure the appropriate number of doctors to cover trauma cases in the hospital's Emergency Department.
"We've spent months studying the situation and searching for alternatives," said Robert L. Graves, administrator, Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. "The unfortunate reality we're facing is we simply were not able to come to agreement with enough doctors to continue to meet the Level II Trauma Center criteria outlined by the state. In light of that challenge, we feel the decision to transition to a Level III designation is an appropriate response."
While the change requires additional discussions and coordination among the Hampton Roads medical community, actual impact on patient care will be minimal. For example, out of the 56,500 patients who were treated in the ER last year, only 67 or 1percent of patients would need alternative care under the new designation.
As a result of the change, residents of Virginia Beach and northeastern North Carolina in need of Level II Trauma Care would now be treated at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, a recognized Level I Trauma Center since 1985.
Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital is working closely with local and regional EMS, the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital Level I Trauma Center and other area emergency departments to ensure a smooth transition.
Sentara is also working to alleviate the shortage of doctors to provide trauma care by recruiting physicians in a number of sub-specialties such as orthopedics, anesthesiology and neurology. Additionally, Sentara is pursuing the development of orthopedic, anesthesiology and neurology residency training programs with Eastern Virginia Medical School.
A trauma center is a specially designated hospital recognized by the state as having superior ability to treat trauma cases. Trauma cases involve patients with multiple, life-threatening injuries where survival hinges on immediate access to specialized care. Trauma injuries most often stem from: car accidents, construction injuries, gunshots, stabbings, beatings, drownings or falls with multiple injuries.
A trauma center is not a separate entity of a hospital but a function of the emergency and surgical departments. In Virginia, trauma centers follow standards of care outlined by the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Emergency Physicians.
The primary difference between a Level II and a Level III Trauma Center is that the Level II designation requires physician coverage in certain sub-specialties (general surgery, neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery) essential to operation. Criteria for Level II centers stipulates that these physicians must be available immediately - in-house and/or ready to respond within minutes as a member of the trauma team.
In order to be classified as a Level III Trauma Center, the only sub-specialty listed as essential is general surgery. Emergency Department coverage by a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon is desired and these sub-specialist physicians must be on call and available promptly, either in-house or within 30 minutes.
Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital has been recognized by the state as a Level II Trauma facility since 1993 when a cadre of volunteer physicians decided it was important to provide trauma services to the community. Over the past 10 years, payment changes in federal Medicare, state Medicaid and other payer sources has made it difficult for physicians to continue to provide trauma services on a volunteer basis.
Administering a trauma program requires a high level of resources. Trauma Centers across the U.S. are experiencing difficulties. The requirements for staffing, equipment and training for trauma care greatly exceed those of normal hospital operations. The declining number of sub-specialists who provide professional trauma service coverage integral to maintaining trauma status has presented challenges.
Presently five Level III Trauma Centers are located in Virginia; the addition of Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital will make six. The existing five Level III Trauma Centers are: 1.) Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Christianburg; 2.) CJW Medical Center, Chippenham in Richmond; 3.) CJW Medical Center, Johnston-Willis in Richmond; 4.) Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg; and 5.) Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg. One Level II Trauma Center is located in Virginia at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News.
Sentara is committed to the growth, expansion and continued excellence of care provided to the residents of Virginia Beach. Over the past five years (since 1998), Sentara has invested/committed in excess of $225 Million for major projects, including plans for new facilities such as Princess Anne Health Campus, various medical equipment upgrades and a new critical care unit at Sentara Bayside Hospital equipped with e-ICU® life monitoring equipment. This spring, the Advanced Imaging Center at First Colonial opened, providing the most comprehensive, state-of-the-art outpatient imaging facility in the region.
In addition, this summer, the Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital is embarking on a $30 million construction project to build a new, 4-story patient tower with all private rooms. Additional enhancements planned for the hospital include improvements to cardiology, inpatient and outpatient services. Construction is expected to be complete in November 2005.
Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital is a 274-bed tertiary care hospital dedicated to providing a comprehensive array of services including open-heart surgery and cardiac care; the Coastal Cancer Center, innovative technology in the areas of orthopedics and neurosciences, stroke treatment, total joint replacements, a Diabetes Center, an accredited Sleep Disorders Center and extensive community wellness programs.