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Study: Montgomery County, TX, In Dire Need Of Trauma Services

Kathryn Mackenzie, for Texas Healthflash, June 25, 2008

As one of the fastest growing counties in the country, Montgomery County, TX, sees nearly a thousand trauma cases annually, but a scarcity of necessary medical staff at local hospitals has left the county in critical need of even basic trauma services, according to a new report.

At least one local hospital says a lack of physicians interested in providing trauma care has left them struggling to obtain Level III certification. "Our plan, even independent of this study was to move back to being a Level III trauma center. The major thing we are facing is our ability to recruit physicians. It's a very time consuming practice, and not everyone is cut out to do it. Our timeframe for getting certified basically has to do with how soon we can find physicians who want to do this work," says Conroe Regional Medical Center CEO Jerry Nash. Conroe Regional dropped its Level III center in 2005 because it could not find physicians who were willing to be on call to the extent needed for trauma care. Nash says the hospital is attempting to regain its certification because there is such a demand for critical care in the area.

Officials at Memorial Hermann-The Woodlands say they also recognize the need for trauma services in Montgomery County and hope to obtain certification at that hospital in the spring of next year. Ann Brimberry, director of public relations for the Memorial Hermann System says, "Trauma care is not a given for any one hospital. It requires a collaborative effort between the hospital and physicians along with talented and dedicated staff, facilities, equipment, and financial resources. With overburdened Level I Trauma Centers in Houston, the need for Level III and perhaps higher level trauma centers in the suburbs is critical," she says.

The study by The Abaris Group says that costs and the ability to find willing and able surgeons will remain a challenge; however, it says the area has enough trauma patients each year to support a Level III trauma center and in five years could could most likely support a Level II facility. The researchers also determined that hospitals can profit from a Level III trauma center. It is estimated that the annual cost to run a trauma center would be $730,000.

Kathryn Mackenzie