Penn. City Opens New Trauma Center
Sept. 01—WILKES-BARRE—For nearly a decade, ambulances filled with the most critically injured patients bypassed Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and instead drove to the nearest trauma center—Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp.
Once, a driver plowed into General's emergency room, yet the man and wounded construction workers were rushed to Geisinger, which is five miles away.
Starting today, Wilkes-Barre General Hospital will be equipped to handle all types of critical cases as it becomes an accredited trauma center, leaders of the facility say. Hospital staff gathered on Thursday to celebrate the news with a ribbon cutting.
"It's a great thing for our area. When you have a trauma center, it raises the expertise of the health care services delivered," said Cornelio Catena, chief executive officer of the hospital and its parent company, Commonwealth Health. "The ultimate beneficiary is the community."
Emergency responders must take severely injured patients to the closest trauma unit, so officials believe Wilkes-Barre General Hospital will now be getting many patients who previously would be sent elsewhere.
"We expect the trauma center to be very busy, very quickly because of the geography that we cover and the proximity to the interstate highway," Catena said.
Geisinger opened its trauma unit in 2008 at its campus at 1000 East Mountain Boulevard in Plains Twp.
Prior to that, there were no trauma centers in the Wyoming Valley and local emergency crews usually had to transport patients to Community Medical Center in Scranton, a 20-mile ride from Wilkes-Barre. CMC is now a Geisinger hospital.
Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney, a certified paramedic, recalls the challenges local lifesavers faced before trauma units came to Luzerne County.
"In Wilkes-Barre, if there was a trauma, there were two options. We had a helicopter fly into a landing zone in Wilkes-Barre to fly the patient to the hospital or we did a ground transport to CMC in Scranton. That was tough. That was a long transport time and it put an ambulance out of service for a long time. You see what Interstate 81 is like at times," Delaney said.
Additionally, there always was a risk with landing helicopters to ferry out the wounded, he added.
Delaney said paramedics usually have a "golden hour" to get patients to trauma units, so the closer the better.
"Any time you lessen the time it takes to get the patient from the incident to the trauma center, it's beneficial," Delaney said.
Delaney said Geisinger's opening of a trauma center in 2008 was a "major stride" for medical care in Northeast Pennsylvania and said its team has been top notch to work with.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Delaney said the city hadn't been officially notified that Wilkes-Barre General Hospital was available for trauma, so all patients would still be going to Geisinger for now. However, he said he was glad to hear local crews will soon have a second, nearby option for trauma care.
"I think—as a fire chief, emergency manager and a paramedic—having two trauma centers regionally, it's far better than one," Delaney said.