Four years ago- AZ didn’t really have a trauma system.  We had 7 Level I (high-end) Trauma Centers…  but that’s it.  After 4 years and a full court press- we now have a decent trauma system that includes 31 trauma centers, (8 Level I, 4 Level III, and 19 Level IV (16 of the Level IVs are in rural Arizona).  Over the past few years I’ve blogged about the progress we have made.  Our next goal is to develop a world-class trauma system. 

To help us get there we asked the American College of Surgeons to review today’s AZ Trauma System and make recommendations areas for improvement.   So, what’s in the report?  For one, traumatic injury in rural AZ still has room for improvement.  For another, trauma care in the urban areas of Phoenix and Tucson is solid…  and we want to make sure that we keep it that way and improve even further where we can.  That means redoubling our focus on preventing injury from happening in the first place, continuing to focus on building out our rural trauma system, ensuring that trauma patients get high quality and timely care in the field, helping our Level III and IV trauma centers implement performance improvement practices in their facilities, and identifying 3 or 4 hospitals to become Level III trauma centers in rural AZ.

We don’t have the statutory authority to implement a designation moratorium for additional Level I Trauma Centers as the report recommends- but we do recognize the importance of having sufficient patient volume to support the necessary resources and provider expertise required by the highest level Trauma Centers.  As a next step, we’ll be getting a group of experts to examine the data in our trauma registry in detail and come up with evidence-based criteria for determining need for the addition of future Trauma Center(s) in Arizona. These criteria may eventually serve as a substantive policy statement for us, guiding us as we review all future Level I Trauma Center applications. 

We’ll also be engaging with our stakeholders (State Trauma Advisory Board, EMS Council, Medical Direction Commission and the four EMS Regions) in the coming months to develop priorities and a plan for our future trauma system development.  We put together a set of frequently asked questions that shed some light on where we plan on going from here.  I also talked about it for a few minutes on Wednesday night’s Horizon.  I’m excited to think about what additional progress we continue to move the needle on trauma in Arizona- contributing to ”Health and Wellness for all Arizonans”.