SALT LAKE CITY -- Since the 1970s -- when Utah s hospitals first earned Level I trauma status -- virtually all patients with the most devastating injuries have been rushed to the northern edge of Salt Lake City, where University, LDS and Primary Children s hospitals are located.
As trauma calls have shifted south and west, the transport times by ambulance could be 20 to 40 minutes from our own valley, said Mark Stevens, medical director of trauma for the new Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.
But the opening of the new campus today is expected to change -- and improve -- how victims of car accidents, bike wrecks, falls and other trauma receive care.
IMC will receive a growing number of trauma calls stemming from the western and southern benches of the Wasatch Front, where the population has swelled - and which has younger people, who are more prone to accidents, Stevens said.
I absolutely think it s better for our community to have a trauma center in the middle of the valley, he said.
IMC s closer proximity to trauma calls in the south means ambulance transport times will be shorter, said Frank Thomas, medical director of adult services for Intermountain Life Flight. As a result, he expects Life Flight s volume of calls in the valley to drop.
Helicopters obviously have their best benefit if the patients are located far away from a Trauma I center, he said.
According to Life Flight data provided by LDS Hospital, the percentage of trauma calls occurring in northern Salt Lake County has inched up 1 percent since 2002, making up 5.3 percent of calls in 2006 and 2007.
Meanwhile, the percentage of calls in southern Salt Lake County swelled from 6.7 percent to 15.5 percent.
And although calls from about 2100 South to 11800 South dipped slightly, they still made up 79.1 percent of trauma calls in 2006 and 2007, the data show.
Now, LDS Hospital will handle minor to moderate injuries, transferring those adults who need a higher level of care to IMC.
Meanwhile, University Hospital - like Primary Children s Medical Center, a Level I trauma center - could see as much as a 10 percent spike in the trauma calls it handles, most of them coming from north of 2100 South.
Erik Barton, chief of the U. s Division of Emergency Medicine, anticipates the increase will come from ambulance traffic that would have ordinarily gone to LDS.
Starting today, he ll have extra staff on call just in case we get caught off guard and we see a surge. And then after that it s just kind of how things shake out.
Designed for better care
IMC will have four trauma bays, double that of LDS, Stevens said. Two trauma critical-care specialists and a surgeon who is completing a fellowship in trauma critical care in Texas have been brought on board.
IMC s design will also improve the speed with which people are seen in the emergency room once they arrive. The helicopter pad, for instance, is located on the ground level instead of the roof, allowing medics to get trauma patients into the hospital faster, Thomas said.
The trauma surgical unit is located literally 50 feet away, he said.
Services for trauma patients are clustered together. MRIs and CT scans are located in the same area; directly above, on the second floor, are operating rooms, and on the third floor, an intensive care unit.
With IMC set to open at 6 a.m. today and begin receiving trauma patients for the first day in its history, Stevens said he s excited for what lies ahead.
There s some anxiety, but also excitement as we contemplate moving [today], he said. We ll be ready for action as soon as we open.