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LSU Hospital Wins Level 1 Designation for Emergency Room

NEW ORLEANS -- For the first time since Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters devastated Charity Hospital, New Orleans once again has an emergency department that has been designated one of the best in the country.

The American College of Surgeons has declared the Interim LSU Public Hospital, at 2021 Perdido St., a Level 1 Trauma Center, meaning that it has not only beds and equipment but also a full complement of surgical specialists on hand to deal with any emergency that rolls through its doors.

That designation, which is to be announced today at a news conference, is one that the New Orleans hospital shares with about 115 other American institutions, according to the American College of Surgeons' Web site.

The only other Level 1 Trauma Center in Louisiana is at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport.

The accolade for the New Orleans hospital followed a rigorous October inspection of the hospital and its data. Even though the team's focus was on the emergency department, the designation applies to the entire hospital, formerly called University Hospital, said Dr. Cathi Fontenot, its interim chief executive officer.

In addition to treating emergency patients, a Level 1 Trauma Center must have strong education, research and community outreach programs, as well as a commitment to pediatric care.

Charity Hospital was first named a Level 1 Trauma Center in 1996. The designation is good for three years, and the facility was inspected and its rating renewed regularly.

Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005, and Charity has been closed since then. The fate of the Tulane Avenue building is uncertain.

In April 2006, Charity's emergency department set up shop at Elmwood Medical Center.

Although all of Charity's trauma team was there, delivering the same level of service, it wasn't a Level 1 Trauma Center because it didn't have the American College of Surgeons' blessing.

Besides, Fontenot said, the center was there 10 months, two months shy of the period for which the accrediting organization requires data in its review.

A hospital that applies for Level 1 Trauma Center status also must show that it has board-certified trauma surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and emergency-care doctors, as well as personnel such as anesthesiologists and pathologists.

"You have to have specialists who are there, readily available, and sometimes in-house," Fontenot said.

The Interim LSU Public Hospital has 56 emergency room beds, she said, and that number will grow to about 90 next summer because the fast-track emergency division will get more space when it is moved across Perdido Street.

The emergency department is responsible for about 1,200 hospital admissions a year, which is approximately the number the surgeons' group requires, Fontenot said.

Its annual mortality rate is about 7 percent, which is 3 percentage points lower than the national average, she said.

Transfers out of the hospital are down, Fontenot said, because it offers private and semi-private rooms instead of Charity's eight-bed wards, which some patients with insurance left as soon as they could.

Besides providing better surroundings, these more private rooms let medical teams keep up with the patients' treatment and progress, Fontenot said.

John Pope can be reached at jpope@timespicayune.com or at 504.826.3317.

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