Amid pressure from D.C. Council members and community leaders, the emergency trauma center at Greater Southeast Community Hospital reopened yesterday with assurances of city help.

The hospital was forced to close the center 13 days ago, mainly because there were not enough specialty surgeons who could respond to a hospital call within 30 minutes.

While the hospital's other emergency services continued to operate, the closing of the level-two trauma center increased the stress upon the D.C. emergency medical system.

Among the unavoidable results of the closing were increased ambulance travel times for trauma victims who ordinarily would have been taken to Greater Southeast Community at 1310 Southern Ave. SE, and a greater burden on the already overworked level-one trauma center at D.C. General Hospital.

To the applause of doctors and community members gathered for a 2:30 p.m. news conference at the hospital's emergency entrance yesterday, D.C. Public Health Commissioner Reed V. Tuckson said, "I am pleased to announce that {Greater Southeast Community} has secured the necessary physician support services to operate the hospital as a level-two trauma center."

The announcement precluded the need for a public hearing on the trauma center's closing that had been scheduled for last night by D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), chairman of the council's Human Services Committee.

Crawford said that he had been "deeply concerned" by the closing of the center and that its reopening was the result of efforts by the council, the community and the hospital because "the issue forced us together."

The hospital, Crawford said, "serves, for the most part, those of us across the {Anacostia} river. For that reason the {trauma center} is extremely important."

Dr. James Benjamin, head of plastic surgery at the hospital, was one of several specialty surgeons who resigned from on-call duty Oct. 1. Benjamin, who has agreed to resume seeing patients on-call, said surgeons are still faced with high liability risks, and work at Southeast Community involves an inordinate amount of time and money.

"You spend an hour in the emergency room, an hour in the operating room and an hour just to get here," Benjamin said, "and your chances of getting reimbursed are nil." Benjamin said he figures he was paid for just 30 percent of the medical service he provided last year.

But hospital President Thomas W. Chapman, Tuckson and Crawford said the city government would work with the hospital to help ease the constraints imposed upon surgeons there.

Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) said she was "dismayed" upon learning that the center had closed, but hailed its reopening as a short-term guarantee that "the emergency medical needs of the community {will be} met."

"We desperately need all of the health services we can get," she said. Rolark noted that just yesterday morning a neighbor of hers suffered a seizure and was taken to Hadley Memorial Hospital because the trauma center at Greater Southeast Community was closed.

Alice Lawson, whose husband John Lawson has been treated for seizures at Southeast Community seven times, said that she had not known of the trauma center's closing.

Lawson, who attended the news conference, said that after her husband was admitted to Hadley, "they had to send for a machine from here" for his care.