Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville will become a Level II trauma center on Oct. 1, giving residents in the eastern suburbs and beyond time-saving access to critical care.
Trauma is the leading cause of death between the ages of 1 and 44, and the mortality rate for injured people in rural areas is twice that of city residents, said Christoph Kaufmann, trauma medical director at Forbes. Trauma injuries often involve internal bleeding, which makes time of the essence in getting treatment.
"That's the reason we have trauma centers distributed across the state," Dr. Kaufmann said.
Pennsylvania has 31 trauma centers, according to the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation, which accredits the centers.
As a Level II center, Forbes will be able to treat life-threatening and other serious injuries and illnesses that currently require transporting a patient to one of the Level I trauma centers in the city. Particularly in instances where bad weather precludes helicopter evacuation, that difference could be life-saving.
To get the designation, Highmark's Allegheny Health Network invested $2.5 million to equip and staff the Forbes center, which features four resuscitation rooms and a critical care surgeon and a trauma physician assistant on site 24 hours a day. Coupled with the hospital's cardiac and stroke programs, Dr. Kaufmann said, "We can now take care of the full spectrum of injury and illness."
He said the hospital expects to treat about 1,200 trauma patients yearly.
A primary distinction between a Level II center and a Level I center -- such as UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Mercy or Allegheny General -- is that Forbes will not be equipped to do the microsurgery required to reattach severed limbs. It also is not required to have research and residency components.
But because Forbes has an obstetrical service, it can treat pregnant women who suffer traumatic injuries, Dr. Kaufmann said, adding that all trauma centers send pediatric patients to Children's Hospital and burn patients to one of the city's specialty burn units at West Penn or Mercy.
Monroeville's other hospital, UPMC East, is not a designated trauma center. Despite the ongoing dispute between UPMC and Highmark, Dr. Kaufmann said all trauma patients will be treated at Forbes regardless of their insurance, at least until they are medically stable.
Steve Twedt: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1963. First Published August 6, 2013 10:30 AM