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Thomason Designated Top Center for Trauma

EL PASO -- Thomason Hospital officials announced Wednesday that the hospital had passed a lengthy inspection and had again been designated a Level 1 trauma center -- the only such center in the region.

On Wednesday, Thomason Hospital CEO Jim Valenti announced that the trauma center was found to meet requirements by the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons, an association dedicated to improving surgical education, practice and the care of surgical patients.

Without the designation, patients with severe injuries would have to be airlifted at least 280 miles to the nearest Level 1 trauma center in Lubbock, Valenti said.

In the past 12 months, Thomason Hospital medical personnel have treated 2,600 trauma victims, according to hospital data.

"Trauma injuries are life-threatening. Trauma victims need highly specialized care," Valenti said. "For the people of El Paso and the surrounding communities, Thomason is the best hope of survival. We know that here."

Thomason first earned the Level 1 designation in 2001 and was reaccredited in 2005. Texas has only seven Level 1 trauma centers. They are in Lubbock, Bexar, Bell, Dallas, Smith, Harris and El Paso counties.

B.J. Stewart, who suffered severe injuries three years ago when he was struck by a motor vehicle while riding his bicycle, said he knew firsthand the importance of having a Level 1 trauma center nearby.

The motorist "would have killed me had it not been for the care I received here. They were able to treat me within that first critical hour and ... they took all the steps necessary to save my life," Stewart said.

Immediately after the crash, three medical personnel worked to save Stewart's life, including an infectious-disease specialist, a critical-care specialist and an occupational therapist.

Stephanie Sanchez may be reached at ssanchez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6137.

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