St. David’s South Austin Medical Center Begins Providing Level II Trauma Care

April 5, 2016

As of Monday, April 4, 2016, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center will have all of the capabilities and programmatic elements of a Level II trauma program and will begin treating the most severely injured and critical patients. As part of the year-long designation process required by the state for this type of program, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center has initiated the process for Level II Trauma Verification by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and designation by the State of Texas. Level II is the highest trauma level a hospital can achieve without being affiliated with an academic research facility or residency program.

Ernest Gonzalez, M.D., has been named the trauma medical director of the new program, and Lydia Blankenship, R.N., B.S.N., is serving as the director of the program.

“St. David’s South Austin Medical Center has long been a leader in providing high-quality emergency care to patients in Central Texas,” Todd Steward, chief executive officer of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, said. “In addition to the high-level of emergency care already being provided at this hospital, the addition of trauma services—and adding new physicians to our already robust team of doctors—will enhance our ability to treat the most critically injured patients.”

As part of the increased capabilities associated with this program, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center is opening a new Shock Trauma Unit—a higher-level ICU for patients who have experienced traumatic injuries—including 10 additional Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and a new trauma operating room (OR) and hybrid suite and has hired additional OR staff. The hospital is also adding 10 new beds in a “step-down” unit this summer for patients recently discharged from the ICU but still in need of a higher level of care. Additionally, the hospital now has dedicated trauma surgeons and a fellowship-trained critical care team in house 24/7, as well as expedited response times for other trauma surgical specialties, including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, hand surgery, otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), cardiovascular and vascular surgery, urology and interventional radiology. St. David’s South Austin Medical Center has also hired additional staff to accommodate the increase in patients and higher level acuity that comes with treating trauma patients, including highly trained critical care nurses, anesthesiology support, respiratory support, blood bank and lab support, and imaging (CT, MRI, ultrasound) support.

As a hospital with Level II Trauma capabilities, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center now provides specialized medical and surgical services and resources to patients suffering from traumatic injuries, working closely with Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council’s (CATRAC) Trauma Service Area O to ensure efficient, high-quality trauma care to patients in Central Texas. Additionally, it provides trauma-prevention courses and community education opportunities.

“Our program will allow us to facilitate access and provide care for severely injured and critical patients suffering from traumatic injury,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “The faster a patient receives care, the better the outcome.”

Through a rigorous planning and evaluation process—including extensive conversations with area emergency medical service (EMS) providers, an analysis of where trauma originates in the community, and travel times to existing trauma programs—St. David’s South Austin Medical Center identified a strong need for a Level II Trauma Center in South Austin. In 2015, the hospital received nearly 17,000 EMS transports, a significant increase from 14,000 in 2014. That number continues to climb due to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center’s proximity to three major thoroughfares—Interstate 35, Highway 71/Ben White Boulevard and MoPac Expressway.

The hospital’s emergency department (ED) is the largest volume ED in Central Texas, serving approximately 110,000 patients per year.

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center has developed a sophisticated, multidisciplinary Performance Improvement Steering Committee, led by Dr. Gonzalez and Blankenship, to continue to improve the care of all trauma patients. The committee includes physicians from all involved specialties, as well as representatives from select St. David’s South Austin Medical Center departments, including critical care, pharmacy, lab, radiology and respiratory therapy.

The ACS will evaluate the hospital’s progress within the next 18 months to determine if it has met the requirements for official designation as a verified ACS Level II Trauma Center.