Penn Highlands pursues trauma center designation

Penn Highlands Healthcare is taking the first steps for Penn Highlands DuBois to become a level 2 trauma center. This is the trauma team practicing during a drill in the Penn Highlands DuBois Emergency Department. There is a lot of work for the team as Penn Highlands Healthcare prepares to meet the criteria for this designation in the future.

DUBOIS - Providing the best care possible for its patients, close to home, is the primary the goal of Penn Highlands Healthcare.

That is why a team at Penn Highlands has started the process to make the Penn Highlands DuBois a level 2 trauma center.

"There is a lot of work to be done before we are an accredited trauma center," said William S. Hoff, M.D., FACS, trauma program medical director and trauma/general surgeon, at Penn Highlands DuBois.

The first step was to send a letter to the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation, or PTSF, the organization responsible for accrediting trauma centers in the Commonwealth indicating the plan to pursue trauma center accreditation.

"Our letter, and information was accepted, and we have definitely begun the process," Hoff said.

"Hospitals that seek trauma center designation must comply with the PTSF standards for trauma center accreditation. A rigorous accreditation process is required to assure that trauma patients receive the highest level of care based on these established standards," Hoff added.

What is a trauma center exactly? When using the term "trauma center," "trauma" refers to a serious or critical bodily injury, according to the PTSF definition.

The most common causes of injury that bring patients to a trauma center are falls and motor vehicle crashes. These events cause life-threatening injuries often to multiple areas of the body.

Other common causes of injury include burns, gunshot wounds and assaults.

Trauma centers provide specialized medical services and resources to patients suffering from the most severe injuries.

Early access to trauma centers and appropriate treatment has been shown to reduce the likelihood of death and permanent disability to injured patients.

Accredited trauma centers must be continuously prepared to treat the most serious life threatening and disabling injuries.

Even though trauma centers are within hospitals, they do not replace the traditional hospital and its emergency department for other illnesses and injuries.

"With a trauma center designation, Penn Highlands DuBois will be able to provide a full range of care for severely injured patients, many of whom are now transported to Altoona or Pittsburgh," Hoff said.

"We would like to make any transfer out of our hospital a rare occurrence, which is best for our patients and their families, said Hoff."

According to Hoff, "from a trauma perspective, this region is severely underserved. The majority of people in Pennsylvania can receive care in a trauma center within a short distance.

"There are areas in our immediate region where access to a trauma center may exceed one hour in any direction."

Many of the facilities for the trauma center will be housed in a new emergency department/patient tower to be added onto the Penn Highlands DuBois West.

It is a part of the healthcare system's $111 million master facilities plan's with eight construction projects to grow services in the region.

The new addition will have two finished floors with 40 individual patient bays on the first floor emergency department and medical/surgical patient rooms on the second floor to provide care for trauma and neurosurgery patients. This project is to start in the spring of 2020.