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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a trauma center?

A trauma center is a specialized hospital that treats victims of physical trauma. Physical trauma is defined as blunt, penetrating or burn injury that requires immediate medical treatment in order for the person who has sustained such injury to survive. Most often, these types of injury are the result of falls, auto accidents, gunshots, stabbings and/or burns. A trauma center is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a trauma surgery team that is specially qualified to attend to traumatic injury. After the patient is stabilized, his/her continuum of care is the responsibility of the trauma center staff until the patient is released from the trauma center.

Why are trauma centers needed? Can't accident victims be treated in our local emergency rooms?

Emergency rooms are not established in such a way as to provide the same services within the same time frame as a licensed trauma center. They function under lesser requirements than trauma centers. Trauma centers are required to have a staff of certified trauma surgeons on staff and present at all times. In addition to these surgeons, it is also required that a staff of specialists and sub-specialists be available on an "on-call" basis, responding within a specifically defined number of minutes. All of these requirements are in place in order to provide highly specialized care within one hour of injury (the "golden hour").

What is the difference between a Level II Trauma Center and other levels of trauma care?

The State of Florida Department of Health licenses trauma centers at three levels. A trauma center can be a level I trauma center, a level II trauma center and/or a Pediatric trauma center. Florida statute mandates that level I Trauma Centers must also be pediatric trauma centers.

Level I trauma centers require 15 specific physician specialists be on call and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The center must have either an in-house burn unit or a transfer agreement with a hospital that operates a burn unit. Level I trauma centers are required to provide extensive education and are generally located on the campuses of university teaching hospitals.

13 of Florida's 22 trauma centers carry a level II designation. Level II centers are required to provide coverage from the same specialists and sub-specialists as level I centers but the time requirements and in-house staff requirements are different. However, all designated physicians are required to respond on-call within much more stringent time frames than a non-trauma hospital emergency department. It should be noted that major differences between level I and level II centers are found in regard to pediatric specialists being required in level I centers and requirements of teaching hospital designation required of level I centers.

Pediatric trauma centers have the responsibility to meet the same criteria as adult trauma centers. However, they must have a pediatric emergency department, pediatric resuscitation equipment in all patient areas, and a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Pediatric trauma centers are required to have on staff trauma surgeons that are credentialed for pediatric care. Pediatric trauma staff must be trained in the complex problem of treating children, including infants, and have numerous hours of specialized pediatric care training. Florida has two pediatric-only trauma centers.

I have heard that Lee Memorial Hospital's trauma center has experienced financial difficulties. With the cost of medical care today, how can there be a financial shortfall?

Lee Memorial Health System is the largest publicly-owned entity in Florida that receives no direct tax support. this includes the LMHS trauma center. While many of Florida's trauma centers and Trauma Districts are set up with taxing authority, the LMHS trauma center and the Lee County Trauma Services District currently have no such taxing ability.

The absence of a steady funding stream is made worse by the cost of meeting the stringent requirements that are put in place by the state in order to assure that licensed trauma centers operate at appropriately high levels of expertise and service. The stand-by costs of equipment, space for treatment and highly skilled personnel create an annual shortfall of $ 6 million  for the LMHS trauma center.

Through the efforts of LMHS administration working with the state legislature and appropriate state agencies, LMHS has been able to offset approximately half of the shortfall each of the past two years. However, these funding sources remain unreliable over the long term. Currently, Lee Memorial Health System continues to absorb financial losses incurred due to operating the LMHS trauma center in order to continue to provide this vital service to the Southwest Florida community. Efforts to identify and implement a steady and dependable funding source for the LMHS trauma center are ongoing.


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Trauma Facts

Every 4 seconds someone is traumatically injured and every 6 minutes someone will die from a trauma injury.

Trauma is the number one killer for those between ages 1 and 37.

Motor vehicle crashes comprise more than 50% of all trauma cases in Florida.

Trauma patient mortality reduces by 25% when that patient is treated for traumatic injuries in a TRAUMA CENTER rather than in a non-trauma center.

The average length of stay in a trauma center is 4.5-6 days.

Over 90% of admissions to the LMHS Trauma Center in fiscal year 2010 were due to "blunt force trauma" primarily related to auto accidents or falls.

On average, over 15.1% of patients treated in Florida's trauma centers have no health insurance.

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