Cartersville Medical Center (CMC) has been in the process of obtaining a Level III trauma center certification from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) for almost two years.
Late last week, the designation became official.
"It's the culmination of a lot of hard work that our team has put into this," said CMC CEO Chris Mosley. "It's been a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of energy around making sure the processes are in place, that we are doing things according to the set protocols that have been outlined for us [and] that we've got all the training and the education in place that we need to."
Under Georgia's trauma center standards — which are modeled around American College of Surgeons guidelines — the Level III certification designates CMC as a hospital suitable for the intensive care treatment of trauma patients.
More specifically, Mosley said the designation allows the hospital to provide immediate stabilization and emergency resuscitation — up to and including surgery — for patients who have experienced certain types of trauma-related injuries.
"The immediate impact is that patients can be transported to us who are in a traumatic situation, whether that be a motor vehicle accident or an injury at home or work, whether they've experienced a wound of some kind from a weapon," he said. "If we think about the longer term impact of that, I think it sort of coalesces well with our vision to strive for excellence in everything that we do around the quality of care that we're delivering at this hospital."
Mosley praised the efforts of John Pope, CMC's trauma program manager, and Dr. John Simmons, CMC's trauma medical director, in getting the hospital the certification.
"It's not a situation where the state just comes in and you say 'hey, I'd like to be a trauma center.' They come in and there is a very long list of criteria you have to meet," he said. "Pope and Simmons, working together, really set out to not just meet the letter of the criteria, but to truly go beyond that so that we had a program we could be proud of ... they've been a dynamic duo in my mind."
Mosley said DPH evaluators found no deficiencies at the hospital during their site visits. In fact, one physician surveyor even praised the local facility for having equipment that wasn't available at her own Level I-designated trauma center.
"In preparation for this, we've added a lot of equipment that we otherwise wouldn't have necessarily had," Mosley said. "When it comes to specialties, it's in line with our physician recruitment strategy and the various services that we're looking to expand into or offer, and we base that on just a continual assessment of the community — what the community needs are and what we feel like we can be doing as a hospital or can be doing even better as a hospital."
The certification coincides with CMC's plans to expand its emergency room from 30 beds to 43 beds.
"We do expect that we will see additional volume coming through our E.R. as a result of the Level III certification, because obviously we can now take additional patients," he said. "But in addition to that, we're also expanding a couple of our O.R.s to make sure that all of our emergency rooms are well equipped and of appropriate size to manage trauma patients."
Another infrastructural addition coming on the heels of the Level III designation, Mosley said, is the installation of a helipad on the back of the hospital.
"We have resources that are now dedicated to trauma services, whether that be in our emergency room, our operating room, our anesthesia or intensive care, we've really upped our game as it relates to provision of trauma services," he said. "It causes everybody to raise their game, really. It has caused all of us to have a sense of pride and just feel great about what we're doing here as we seek to continually improve the level of service that we are providing to our community."
The certification, Mosley added, is also a "signal" to potential recruits that CMC is striving for the very best.
"We are not a hospital that is resting on its laurels. We are progressing and we're advancing, and this I think is evidence of that," he said. "It increases our capabilities and, I think, that's the big thing. A trauma patient can now come to us and we're dedicated and are trained and ready to receive that patient and provide that higher level care than what we were providing in the past."
CMC has to renew the certification from the DPH's Office of EMS and Trauma every three years. While Mosley said he wants CMC to one day receive certification as a Level II trauma center, for the time being he said the hospital is focused on providing the best Level III services they can.
"We're constantly evaluating where we need to be and trying to see what just makes the most sense to us as a hospital and for the community as a whole," he said. "We're hopeful that it's going to enhance the care we're able to offer here ... that's our goal and that's what we're trying to do everyday."