A trip via air ambulance to a Kansas City area hospital may be less likely in future years for Douglas County residents who suffer trauma-level injuries in car accidents and other medical emergencies.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s board of trustees unanimously agreed Wednesday to start the process of allowing the hospital to apply for a designation to treat lower-level trauma cases.
“This is really about being able to be treated in your own community instead of having to be sent somewhere else,” said Dana Hale, vice president of nursing for LMH. “Our philosophy has been that if we can figure out a feasible way to provide a service here, we want to provide it.”
Currently, LMH does not have any trauma-level designation. That means medical protocols often dictate that emergency medical responders send patients with serious injuries sustained in accidents to either the Kansas University Hospital, Overland Park Regional Medical Center or Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka.
LMH leaders, however, are interested in applying for a new trauma center designation recently created by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The new Level 4 designation would give emergency responders the option of sending patients, in some cases, to LMH to be stabilized before being sent to one of the other hospitals.
More importantly, LMH officials say, is that the Level 4 designation will be a good primer for LMH to apply to be a Level 3 trauma center.
The Level 3 designation would allow the hospital to treat some trauma cases, Hale said. She said it is difficult to forecast what specific injuries could be treated under the new designation. But as an example, she said, accidents involving amputations, chest injuries or other injuries that involve immediate surgery are routinely sent to other hospitals. Those types of cases might be able to be treated at LMH in the future.
Hale said it is unlikely that LMH will ever achieve Level 2 or Level 1 trauma center designations — KU Hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center in the region — which involves offering neurosurgery and other advanced care.
Gaining trauma center designation will take several months. Elaine Swisher, clinical coordinator for the emergency room department, estimated it may take six to nine months to gain the Level 4 designation and then would take at least another six to nine months to gain Level 3 designation.
The Level 3 designation will be dependent upon reaching agreements with area surgeons to staff the trauma surgery teams, board members were told.
In other business, the LMH board:
• Approved the hospital’s 2013 operating budget. The hospital is budgeting for another strong financial year. LMH for the first time in its history is budgeted to provide more than $500 million worth of care. The hospital is budgeted to provide $502.6 million in services, which is the amount before deductions are made for insurance providers the hospital contracts with. After deductions, the hospital is expected to have $201.4 million in revenue.
The not-for-profit hospital expects to have revenues exceed expenses by $8.5 million, which would be down from the projected $9.7 million amount for 2012. Since LMH is a not-for-profit institution, the excess revenues are used to make capital investments in the hospital or bolster LMH’s cash reserves.
LMH does have several large capital purchases budgeted for 2013, including $2.1 million for a robotic surgery system, $2 million for two CT scanners, and about $2 million for investments in upgraded information and technology systems.
• Received an update on a possible partnership to locate a “wellness center” at a proposed city-owned recreation center in northwest Lawrence. The board took no action on the item, but hospital leaders said they were still exploring possibilities.
Gene Meyer, LMH president and CEO, said the hospital had multiple options to consider when thinking about the need for a wellness center. He said Lawrence developer John McGrew is scheduled to make a presentation to the board in December about wellness initiatives he has been working on. Previously, McGrew has talked about ideas he has for a wellness program that could be based at the Lawrence VFW site, which is near the hospital and recently was purchased by the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.
Board members, though, were also told that they’ll have to consider whether KU Hospital may look to create a wellness center at the city recreation center, if LMH does not move forward on the project.
Board members, however, were split on how likely that possibility was.
Mike Wildgen, an LMH board member who also is the former Lawrence city manager, said he would find it surprising if the city invited a Kansas City area hospital into the city to compete with LMH. He also said if KU Hospital believed there was a market for wellness services in Lawrence, it wouldn’t need to wait on the recreation center to act.
“That sounds like a scare tactic to me,” Wildgen said.
• Received word that LMH received an "A" grade in a recent study of hospital safety by the not-for-profit Leapfrog Group. Only 30 percent of the more than 2,600 hospitals ranked by the group received an "A" rating.
LMH was the only hospital in the Kansas City or Topeka area to receive an "A" grade. Other hospitals of note and their grades included: KU Hospital, "B"; St. Luke’s South, "B"; Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center, "C"; St. Francis Health Center, "B"; Overland Park Regional Medical Center, "C"; and Olathe Medical Center, "D."