Inova Loudoun Hospital officials announced this month that they will alter procedures and enhance the emergency room at the Lansdowne campus in an attempt to attain designation from the Virginia Department of Health as a Level III trauma center.
If the effort is successful, it would be the first trauma center in Loudoun County.
Hospital officials made the announcement Sept. 7, when they revealed plans for a $5 million renovation and expansion of the emergency room at Lansdowne.
The hospital currently treats hundreds of patients with traumatic injuries every year, hospital officials said. As a trauma center, it would be able to treat patients who would now be transported to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
“For trauma patients, minutes matter, and the quicker you can intervene, the better the outcomes are,” Edward Puccio, the hospital’s director of emergency medicine, said. “We felt strongly that we need to be able to intervene on these patients here, and save time and save lives locally.”
Functioning as a trauma center would also allow more patients to remain at Lansdowne for treatment after they have been stabilized, making it more convenient for their family members to visit, said April Brown, the hospital’s senior director of emergency services.
“We know that family is important in the healing process, having that support emotionally,” Brown said. “Keeping residents in our community hospital is very important so we can provide that support, not only to the patient, but to the family.”
Stephanie Boese, the hospital’s trauma program coordinator, said that Level III trauma centers are required to have surgeons and operating room staff members on call at all times, and they must be able to be on site within 30 minutes of the patient’s arrival.
Level I centers, such as the one in Fairfax, have neurosurgeons and other medical specialists that are not required at Level III centers, Puccio said.
Doctors, nurses and other clinical staff members at Inova Loudoun are being trained to work as trauma teams, Boese said. She said the hospital might get a call that someone has fallen off a ladder and is on the way to the emergency department.
“Everyone that’s on the trauma team will be in that room before that patient arrives,” Boese said. The team will conduct a “head-to-toe” assessment, followed by a CT scan to see whether there are internal injuries.
“If we see a bleed inside the brain . . . we’ll immediately bring the patient back in the trauma room, someone’s already calling for the helicopter, and we’ll transfer them to Fairfax,” Boese said. “If we didn’t do that systematic approach, we could miss something.”
Puccio said the pursuit of the trauma center designation involves the entire hospital.
“The operating room has to be ready to take that patient,” he said. “Then the intensive care unit has to be ready to receive this trauma patient from the operating room. And then the other medical units need to be able to handle these patients and recognize potential complications of a traumatically injured patient.
“It lifts the entire hospital up, because if you can do all the things to manage trauma, you just naturally get better at everything else you do,” Puccio said.
Attaining the trauma center designation would take about 18 months, Boese said. On Oct. 1, the hospital will send a letter of intent to the Virginia Department of Health. That will begin a six-month trial period, during which the hospital will implement the trauma-team approach, measure its performance and change policies and procedures as necessary.
After six months, a site review team from the state would assess how well the hospital is doing. If it meets the state’s standards, the hospital would receive the trauma center designation on a provisional basis for one year, after which the state would determine whether to make the designation permanent, Boese said.
H. Patrick Walters, chief executive of Inova Loudoun Hospital, said that Loudoun County has grown to the point that it needs its own trauma center.
“Our county is now 370,000 people and growing, [and] it’s not getting any easier to get from here to Fairfax,” he said.