Guest column: Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation verified as a Level III trauma center

Photo courtesy Tuba City Regional Healthcare Corporation

Photo courtesy Tuba City Regional Healthcare Corporation

Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation is pleased to announce we have passed our trauma verification and remain the only American College of Surgeons Level III Trauma Center on Native American lands south of Alaska,said CEO Lynette Bonar, FACHE.

The journey to reach this milestone has been long and momentous. Emergency health care on the Navajo Nation has come a long way since 1975 when the main portion of the old Tuba City Hospital was built. Now, emergency care is administered dedicated facility with the most current equipment by residency trained and board certified physicians and surgeons that provide rural trauma patients with excellent care.

In 2009, the corporation was designated a Regional Level 4 Trauma Center in the state of Arizona and became the only hospital in Western Navajo to be so designated. In March 2015, the corporation was officially designated a Level III Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons (ACS).

A team of specially-trained surgeons, physicians, nurses and hospital staff led by Trauma Medical Director Dr. R. Zane Kelley and Trauma Program Manager and registered nurse Shannon Johnson raised the corporation to this new level of trauma care.

As a Level III Trauma Center, the corporation has the ability to provide prompt assessments, resuscitation, surgery, intensive care, stabilization of injured patients and emergency operations.

There are various levels of trauma centers, the levels include: I, II, III, IV and V.

The designations refer to the kinds of resources and care that are available at that specific trauma center — total yearly patient visits are also determining factors. The verification process reviews several key areas of a trauma center, such as: the center’s commitment, readiness, policies, resources, patient care and their performance improvement.

Kelley also explained the designation and verification guarantees that Tuba City providers, facilities, policies and procedures have been reviewed by the ACS and they are prepared to handle patients who suffered traumatic injury 24 hours a day and 365 days per year.

“This guarantees that we have everything in place to care for trauma patients,” Kelly said “We continue to review our processes and our providers. Our trauma patients are only cared for by board-certified physicians.”

National statistics indicate the average patient has a 17 times greater chance of dying in a rural hospital setting like Tuba City compared to a metro area hospital that is closer to resources and physicians.

Those statistics are gradually changing in the region thanks to the Tuba City trauma center and the expansion of emergency services provided.

Emergency room visits have more than doubled since 2007 when 22,888 patients visited the emergency room.

This year, more than 47,000 patient visits have been documented at Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation. In comparison, Flagstaff Medical Center had only 1,500 more visits than Tuba City this year and Page Banner had 9,974 total visits.

The trauma center would not be possible without the support of the Board of Directors of Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation. The Board support the need to purchase the best equipment for patients.

Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, a Joint Commission accredited health center, provides services to a 6,000 square mile area and serves as a referral center for the western part of the Navajo and Hopi Reservations.

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