MILLCREEK — "Time in trauma matters. Every minute, every second."
Battalion Chief Jason Nicholl, who is in charge of South Salt Lake Fire Department's Medical Division, shared that message Monday as he emphasized that the "golden hour of trauma" means everything when it comes to patient care.
"If you get in a car accident and you're seriously injured and it takes one minute for someone to call, and then two minutes for the paramedics to get there, and then maybe 10 minutes for us to cut you out of your car, and then a minute to put you in the ambulance, and then five minutes to take you to the hospital — you're already talking 15 to 20 minutes of your golden hour that has been chewed up," he said.
St. Mark's Hospital can now help shave time off the golden hour for trauma victims in Salt Lake Valley. The hospital, formerly a Level III trauma center, recently received its Level II trauma certification from the American College of Surgeons — making it one of four Level II trauma centers throughout the state, and the only one in the Salt Lake Valley.
The different trauma levels indicate the services a facility offers. Level I facilities rank highest on the scale.
The distinctions between Level I and Level II facilities are minute, said Kris Mitchell, the director of trauma services for St. Mark's.
"A Level II center can do almost exactly what a Level I center can do," he said.
While other hospitals in the area are Level I, it's still important for the community to have additional trauma services, said Mark Robinson, CEO of the hospital.
"I think the most important thing is access to care," Robinson said. "The EMS that bring patients to St. Mark's now do not have to drive past us for those trauma patients that need to be seen."
The biggest difference between Level I and II facilities has nothing to do with patient care, Mitchell said, but rather education. Level I facilities are teaching hospitals that conduct research.
"We can take care of the same patients the Level I centers here in the valley can take care of," he said.
While there are differences in care, Mitchell said they are minor. Level II facilities don't offer microvascular surgeries. For example, if a severed finger needed to be reattached, the patient would need a Level I facility.
Nicholl said having one more facility with trauma services makes a big difference for the fire department.
"When you're talking about someone bleeding out from a massive pelvic fracture, or someone that's been shot, or someone that's fallen off a building, minutes and seconds really do make a difference," he said.
The fire department takes a majority of its patients to St. Mark's, Nicholl said, because of its location and quality of care.
"We're the busiest fire department per capita in the state," Nicholl said. "We run more calls per firefighter/paramedic than anyone else in the state. We end up bringing more patients to St. Mark's than any other hospital in the state."
The certification process took two years to complete and Mitchell said the entire hospital was involved.
"It's a sense of pride that we have here that the whole hospital takes credit for," Mitchell said. "It's taken the entire hospital and administration to support this."
Going from level III to level II has already made a difference.Comment on this story
"In the last month or so we've had several major pelvic orthopedic traumas," Mitchell said. "It's a very complex injury we would never have been able to take care of before."
As part of its certification, the hospital hired specially trained physicians including vascular specialists, facial surgeons, ophthalmologists and physicians specializing in complex orthopedic care.
The surgeon response time was also cut in half — from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.
"We want to be great when it comes to caring for this community," Robinson said. "It's our responsibility and we don't take that lightly."