Alabama system of getting severely injured to the right hospital just got better

ambulanceA system of routing the most severely injured patients to the most appropriate hospital for their circumstance now finally covers the entire state.

The southeastern part of the state now joins the rest of Alabama participating in the program, state health officials announced today.

“I can assure the general public there will be people alive in the Southeast region who would not have survived previously due to trauma,” said Joe Acker, executive director of the Birmingham Regional EMS System.

Acker runs the communication hub of the system out of Birmingham.

State health officer Dr. Donald Williamson said the system helps reduce the trauma death rate and reduce the length of stay in hospitals.

“It offers that five to 10 percent of the people [being transported] with severe trauma get to the right place at the right time,” Williamson said.

Before the announcement today, there were four regions in the state. Now there are five with the new Southeast Region operating in Autauga, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Elmore, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Pike and Russell counties.

At the heart of the Alabama Trauma System is the Alabama Trauma Communications Center (ATCC), run by Acker out of a hardened one-story building in Birmingham.

Here paramedic-trained dispatchers field calls and monitor hospitals.

Paramedics and EMTs at the scene call in by phone or radio to the center where dispatchers log the patient into the system and direct the patient to the appropriate hospital based on the level of injuries and the hospital’s availability and capability of treating those injuries.

It may be the closest hospital or it may not.

For example, Williamson said, if the patient has a closed head injury and needs a neurosurgeon but the closest hospital doesn’t have one then the trauma system can find the nearest hospital with a neurosurgeon.

The Alabama Trauma System came out of Birmingham Regional Emergency Medical Services System (BREMSS), which started in 1996 with some help from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital which wanted to more efficiently manage its trauma care load.

After its launch, a study found trauma death rates dropped 12 percent in the region while the rest of the state stayed the same.

The system was expanded in 2009 under Gov. Bob Riley to most of the state, with the southeastern section of Alabama as the lone hold-out.



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