GARY - Methodist Hospitals Northlake is on track to be the first certified trauma center in northwest Indiana - but several other local hospitals are looking to follow suit.
In August, the the Northlake campus was designated as an "in process" hospital by the Indiana EMS Commission, which allows it to operate as a Level III trauma center.
The closest Level I center is Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
The Level III "in process" status gives the hospital two years to complete the American College of Surgeons' Level III certification; there also are two higher levels: Level II and Level I.
As a result, ambulances with the most severe cases can now stop at Northlake campus in Gary. Previously, patients with serious injuries were transported to hospitals in Illinois; South Bend, Indiana; or even Indianapolis. In the medical profession, the first hour - or "golden hour" - is cited as a critical to a emergency patient's long-term survival, so the faster they can access critical care, a patient will be better off.
Methodist officials will describe the process in more depth at a Monday afternoon press conference.
Trauma centers can treat head or spinal cord injuries, cardiac events, organ failure, burns and other conditions resulting from emergency situations, such as car crashes, mill accidents or falls.
A pair of Franciscan Alliance hospitals in Indiana are preparing to submit "in process" applications soon: Franciscan St. Margaret Health-Dyer and Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point.
Franciscan's regional director for emergency services Janet Doms said the process started in mid-2013.
"There wasn't a trauma center in northwest Indiana, so we knew there was a need," Doms said.
She said they hope to have St. Anthony's "in process" application submitted by early 2015. The state created the "in process" designation two years ago, and eight hospitals have been approved for that status. In addition, 11 hospitals statewide are Level III trauma centers or higher.
Level III status requires qualified staff, upgraded equipment and establishing appropriate policies and procedures, according to the American Trauma Society.
Prompt assessment is key; Level III hospitals must, for example, have a surgeon at a patient's bedside within 30 minutes of arrival. Transfers to higher-level facilities may be arranged if necessary, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Tom Gryzbek, president of St. Margaret Health in Dyer, said simply preparing the application is an extensive process.
"The work is still in progress," Gryzbek said. "We hope to get something submitted in the next six months or so."
A patient receives emergency medical attention at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. | File photos Jessica Koscielniak The Medical Stabilization Unit at Methodist Hospitals Northlake in Gary opened a year ago.
September 4, 2014