Kansas Health Workers Plan For Trauma Response

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The tragic situations with multiple injuries this week at the Boston Marathon and the Texas fertilizer plant are a reminder of the importance for communities to prepare for the worst.

If it should happen, emergency workers can't afford confusion.

"With any injury, time is of the essence," says Dr. William Sachs, who is Trauma Medical Director at Topeka's Stormont-Vail HealthCare.

Sachs says Stormont prepares for mass casualty situations, like those unfolding in Boston and Texas this week or, more common in Kansas - a tornado, by holding regular meetings and training sessions with everyone from nurses and surgeons to respiratory therapists and paramedics.

Sachs says the goal is to have a process where a patient arrives and is rapidly evaluated to determin the best plan of action.

Even before a patient hits the ER door, the Kansas Trauma Program thru KDHE is helping hospitals communicate which facilities are best for which patients to ensure adequate resources for all.

Stormont's Trauma Richelle Rumford, RN, MSN, says the whole goal is to make a trauma system, rather than just every facility for themselves. She says trauma can happen anywhere. Planning beforehand builds relationships and facilitates communication which will make response go more smoothly should anything happen for real.

The state's verified trauma centers are crucial to the plan. The American College of Surgeon's Level I centers in Kansas - University of Kansas Hospital and Wichita's Wesley and Via Christi - offer the highest-level specialties such as burn centers in some cases. To be considered Level I, centers also must see a certain number of trauma patients and they usually are associated with universities, doing their own research and hosting residency programs.

Stormont is Level II, meaning it is able to offer comprehensive trauma care with essential specialties, personnel and equipment. A Level III-verfied center is able to offer basic trauma. In addition, the state of Kansas offers a Level IV designation for facilities able to stabilize a patient for transfer to a facility with more specialized care.

Rumford says a trauma center is more than just an emergency department. She says it speaks to resources available in the entire hospital.

Working before a disaster to ensure the best use of the resources of all facilities is key.

Sachs says it's difficult to prepare for every contingency, but having a plan in place will make a difference in how patients are treated and, ultimately, outcomes.

Sachs also says the Boston tragedy highlighted the importance of everyone knowing emergency first aid. He says the quick actions of bystanders helping victims more than likely saved lives.