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Nearby Hospital Not Always Best Choice

JEMS.com Editor's Note: Read Trauma Talk for JEMS.com columnist Will Chapleau's take on national and international trauma issues.

OMAHA-- When a patient has severe injuries, the closest emergency room is not always the best option, trauma experts say.

That was illustrated Monday when a woman was shot in the parking lot of a hospital --Immanuel Medical Center -- but was taken more than five miles away to Creighton University Medical Center.

The woman was transported to Creighton because it was the designated trauma center for that day, said Megan Sorensen, trauma program manager at Creighton. The woman was in critical condition this morning.

Creighton and the Nebraska Medical Center are the Omaha area's two designated trauma centers and routinely receive the most severely injured patients from shootings, car crashes and other accidents, she said.

Paramedics at the scene make the call on whether a person should be taken to a trauma center, she said.

Sorensen said that Creighton and the Nebraska Medical Center are the designated centers because they meet certain standards, such as the number of trauma surgeons immediately available and special medical equipment.

A longer trip to a trauma center might seem to go against common sense, but Sorensen said that to trauma doctors, it is the right choice.

Research has shown that severely injured patients generally have better outcomes if they get to the designated trauma center in less than 30 minutes, even though other hospitals might be closer, Sorensen said.

Dr. Robert Muelleman, director of the emergency department at the Nebraska Medical Center, said even patients injured in rural areas 50 miles or more outside Omaha are often taken to his hospital or Creighton.

Creighton is the designated trauma center on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Nebraska Medical Center is the designated center the rest of the week.

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