Injuries are the leading cause of death for Arizonans from age 1 to 44.  That means for the majority of the young and the middle-aged injury is more lethal than cancer, heart disease, hypertension and influenza combined.  The effectiveness of a State’s pre-hospital and Trauma System makes the difference when it comes to saving lives (and quality of life) from injuries.  That’s why we invited the American College of Surgeons to assess AZ’s Trauma System back in 2007…  to evaluate the effectiveness of our trauma system and to make recommendations.  

The main 2007 recommendations were to improve trauma care in the rural parts of the state by recruiting Level IV trauma centers in rural AZ, strengthen the State’s trauma registry, and to assess our system and make necessary updates to our state trauma plan.  We have.  

Over the last 3 ½ years, our EMS and Trauma System team has been able to recruit 17 rural hospitals (up from 0) into our trauma system.  For the first time, Arizona’s rural trauma patients have timely access to good trauma care.  Our State Trauma Registry has been strengthened by undergoing validation checks and audits and is now one of the best in the country, allowing us to conduct all kinds of research to improve care across the state.  Arizona’s trauma system today bears little resemblance to our system 4 years ago, and like any system, it’s important to re-assess how we’re doing and set new priorities to maximize our effectiveness.  

That’s why we invited the American College of Surgeons back last week…  to evaluate our system- to take a look at the progress we have made over the last several years and give us feedback on the best way to move forward- both in rural and urban Arizona.  The ACS met with our team and our EMS and hospital trauma Stakeholders- and we had great participation. 

The ACS had about a dozen nuts and bolts recommendations and 3 larger recommendations regarding AZ’s Trauma System in their report-out presentation. Their written report (in about 6 weeks) will recommend (among other things):

  1. A moratorium on new trauma center designations in the Valley and Tucson and at the same time recommending that the Department explore the statutory authority to have a “needs based” system for designation.
  2. During the moratorium (if we have one)- they recommend that we put together a destination protocol for the Valley for ambulance providers.
  3. Their report will recommend that we explore more effective ways to use the Prop 202 money that currently only goes to Level I Centers. 

We’ve just begun to explore the who, what, when, where, and how their initial recommendations. Once the actual written report comes in 5 or 6 weeks we’ll be in a better position to evaluate the recommendations. 

Finally…  three cheers for Dan Didier, Noreen Adlin, Donna Meyer, and Betty Yunick for preparing for this week’s evaluation.  To get ready, they had to respond to a detailed trauma system pre-review questionnaire; identify, copy and scan approximately 400 pages of trauma system reports developed over the past 5 years; and coordinate hotel and meeting room space for approximately 80 participants. Thanks!