St. Francis increases care level for trauma in region

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

St. Francis Medical Center is raising its level of care for area trauma patients. On Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services presented the Cape Girardeau hospital with its new accreditation as a Level III trauma center. The certification makes St. Francis the only Level III trauma center in Southeast Missouri.

As a Level III facility, the trauma center -- dubbed the Gene Huckstep Emergency Center in honor of a former Cape Girardeau civic leader -- will be staffed with specialized emergency physicians trained to handle any serious trauma at any time. It will also better integrate its system with those of higher Level I and II centers in St. Louis and throughout the state for transfers of more serious cases.

"I believe that trauma systems work," said Dr. Adam Deutchman, trauma systems manager for St. Francis. "Now we are integrated with centers statewide."

As the only certified trauma center between St. Louis and Memphis, the Gene Huckstep Emergency Center will serve about 500,000 people in the region. In recent years, the St. Francis emergency room served more than 35,000 patients on average a year through both trauma services and minor emergency care. Now, the hospital's number of trauma patients could increase due to this certification.

The designation makes St. Francis the primary destination for area trauma patients who are unconscious or deemed unable to make a cognitive judgment. Before the designation, unconscious patients would be taken to the nearest hospital. Those who are injured and still conscious can still decide where they want to receive treatment.

"We would hope that the quality of care would be the deciding factor," said Steven Bjelich, president and CEO of St. Francis.

Southeast Missouri Hospital president and CEO James Wente called St. Francis' trauma center a benefit for the area, and he supports it.

"We've gone years without a designated center," Wente said of the region. "It only makes sense that it would be in Cape Girardeau, and I think that at this point in time there only needs to be one. I wish them success."

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