New Fla. Level II Trauma Center Busy Within Hours

New Fla. Level II Trauma Center Busy Within Hours

News Dec 11, 2012

Dec. 10--Ocala Regional Medical Center's new trauma unit to help patients needing advanced specialized care is online months before its scheduled completion date and treated its first patient within hours of opening.

The Level II trauma center, built at a cost of $6 million, will provide the kind of advanced medical care beyond what traditional emergency rooms can offer seriously injured patients. Dr. Darwin Noel Ang is the medical director.

The trauma center will serve Marion, Hernando and Citrus counties at Ocala Regional's facility at 1431 SW First Ave. and is the only center of its kind in the tri-county area. The center is located at the hospital's emergency department and includes its own operating room, X-ray machines, intensive care units and support equipment and supplies.

The trauma center was slated to open in April 2013, but Ang said the project was sped up as the hospital quickly found the community support and staffing it needed.

"It was a collaborative effort between a lot of people," Ang said. "We had a lot of folks in Marion County that wanted this to happen."

Ang said the project was completed ahead of schedule with help from the hospital's administration, cooperation from the area's medical community, and the ability to educate the trauma center's staff in a timely manner with the skills they needed.

"I don't think I could have waited until April to see our first trauma case," Ang said.

The trauma center began operations Saturday. By early Sunday, a critically injured driver was brought there after his car was struck by a train north of Ocala. Over the weekend, the center treated at least three patients needing advanced medical care.

"It's going to drastically change the survival from trauma," Ang said. "We're going to be saving a lot of lives here."

Typically, patients treated in a trauma center are those with large penetrating injuries, those who are victims of gunshot wounds, or those in accidents involving large animals such as horses. Generally, patients admitted into the hospital are treated in the trauma center. Patients typically not admitted get treatment in the hospital's emergency department.

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Until now, Marion, Hernando and Citrus counties sent patients needing advanced emergency room care to Gainesville or Tampa. When minutes count in getting patients treatment, Ang said, the additional time it took getting them to out-of-county hospitals was unacceptable.

In 2011, nearly 300 seriously injured people from Marion County were taken to Gainesville or Tampa for trauma medical care. It took an average of 36 minutes for an ambulance to transport a patient to Shands in Gainesville. A helicopter flight took 12 minutes to 22 minutes, which didn't include the time it took to get to the patient or to load them, according to Marion County Fire Rescue records.

Considering the number of patients transported out of Marion County for specialized care, the area was the most in need of a trauma center throughout Florida, Ang said, citing a recent Florida Department of Health study.

In addition, when patients were sent out of county for medical care, it tied up other resources, Ang said. That meant law enforcement and fire and emergency personnel had to escort patients to Gainesville or Tampa, leaving a vacuum during their absence.

"Now, having the (trauma center) here, these resources are more readily available to us," Ang said.

Building the trauma center included construction of a rooftop helipad and resuscitation rooms in the hospital's emergency department. The project also included training current staff in critical care and the addition of more than 40 new staff members and 15 specialists to provide the services associated with a trauma center.

Unlike a Level I trauma center, Ocala Regional's Level II trauma center will not offer specialized care for pediatric trauma, or a burn unit, but will be able to stabilize those groups of patients before they are referred elsewhere.

Ocala Health System encompasses the 200-bed Ocala Regional Medical Center and the 70-bed West Marion Community Hospital.

Contact Fred Hiers at 867-4157 or fred.hiers@starbanner.com.

Copyright 2012 - Ocala Star-Banner, Fla.

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