The Washington Hospital Center's shock trauma unit, one of the most technically sophisticated facilities for emergency medical services in the country, was officially dedicated yesterday.
The $1.5 million unit called MedSTAR -- Medical-Shock-Trauma Acute Resuscitation -- will receive medical emergencies such as patients with heart attacks, burns and life-threatening breathing difficulties as well as patients with multiple injuries.
The new unit is scheduled to begin accepting patients in about two weeks. About 1,000 patients are expected to be treated in the MedSTAR unit in its first year of operation.
The MedSTAR staff will care for serious medical and surgical emergencies now treated in the hospital's emergency room.
Located at the base of a four-story tower which houses the Hospital Center's medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units, as well as its burn unit, MedSTAR has a helicopter pad immediately outside its front door, as well as an ambulance ramp leading to its entrance.
Patients will be taken from helicopters and ambulances on "trollies" with removable platforms that can be placed on bases in the resuscitation, X-ray and operating areas, thereby avoiding moving patients from one surface to another.
Unlike the situation in most hospitals, all monitoring and intravenous equipment in each area is located in a central column stretching from floor to ceiling allowing easy access to patients.
The shock trauma team at the Hospital Center, which has been treating patients for more than a year, and Maryland's shock trauma unit in Baltimore have been at the center of a heated debate between Maryland and the District about which service provides the best care for seriously injured patients and where patients should be transported for treatment.
Yesterday's dedication ceremony was attended by Mayor Marion Barry, who pledged to try to resolve regional differences over emergency medical services.