Tuesday, June 14, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Contrary to popular belief, more isn’t always better, and this is precisely the case with a proposed expansion of the trauma center system in Clark County.
Hospital lobbyists and some politicians would like to designate Centennial Hills Hospital, MountainView Hospital and Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center as level III trauma centers (the lowest level of trauma designation). With a possible vote on these designations by the Southern Nevada Health District Board of Health coming up June 23, we believe it’s imperative that people explore the realities of trauma center expansion.
Adding a trauma III designation would allow these centers to charge a trauma activation fee to any emergency room visit. As patients in Tampa, Fla., and Denver, Colo., can all tell you, when trauma designations were given to several hospitals in their cities, hospital bills exploded — putting additional burdens on patients and their families.
Trauma III centers receive low-level traumas that come by ambulance with no lights, no siren and no rush. Of the patient visits to our existing level III hospital, 85 percent are treated in the emergency room, then released and sent home. They are not admitted to the hospital because level III trauma is not life-threatening.
Furthermore, a trauma III designation does not add new capacity to a hospital. These designations merely add a requirement that you be transported to a level III hospital for care where they can convert an emergency room bed to a trauma bed. There’s no new building, no new expertise, no new construction — just new costs to you.
The Regional Trauma Advisory Board, which is comprised of community trauma experts and was created to ensure a trauma system is stable and comprehensive, rejected all three trauma level III applications for these facilities and voted instead to require a needs assessment to identify trauma needs in the county, as mandated by law.
We have statutory requirements in place to expand our trauma system because randomly adding capacity without a demonstrated need hurts the entire system and our community.
If these additional applications are approved, hospital costs at these for-profit facilities will continue to skyrocket, further burdening patients and their families by driving up hospital bills across Southern Nevada. Meanwhile, the Hospital Corporation of America and Universal Health Services (both headquartered out-of-state) will take these new profits from Nevada and leave us with a weakened trauma system, higher health care bills and no new services to show for it.
We oppose the new designation of trauma level III centers because a need has not been demonstrated or determined at this time; there have been no complaints, shortages or long wait times at the University Medical Center level I trauma center. Additionally, adding these designations would take patients from existing programs that require a minimum number of patients to be stable. This could threaten the UMC residency program, which is vital to the new UNLV School of Medicine and the needs of our military.
Southern Nevada has not caught up with the glut of trauma capacity that was created the last time Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center asked politicians to add capacity without any trauma need, and our current trauma volume doesn’t support adding additional centers now.
The top priority of our first responders is the safety and well-being of Southern Nevadans. With no demonstrated need and no additional services provided, we are deeply concerned about the long-term impact of needlessly raising health care costs to patients in Southern Nevada.
We urge the Southern Nevada Health District Board of Health to follow the recommendations of its experts and reject the pending trauma center applications. The board should avoid designating new trauma capacity without an accurate assessment of what our community really needs, including when adding trauma capacity might be necessary.
Ryan Beaman is president of the Clark County Firefighters Local 1908, James Suarez is the chairman of the Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285 Health and Welfare Trust, and Scott Johnson is president of the North Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1607.