Winthrop-University Hospital unveiled a new trauma center Monday as the Mineola medical facility awaits certification for treatment of critically injured patients in Nassau County.
The $6 million center will be staffed around the clock with a trauma team, including an on-site surgeon, to care for cases involving motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, fires and burns and violence, including gunshot wounds. Hospital officials expect it will be operational by early January.
“We are recognizing that the community is changing,” hospital president John Collins said during an afternoon event that included a simulation of an emergency visit. “There’s more vehicular traffic, more pedestrian traffic, a rising heroin epidemic and an increased geriatric population, with fewer hospitals than there once were on Long Island.”
The trauma center’s opening is the first phase of a $20 million project to add beds and renovate the Emergency Department, said Dr. Barry Rosenthal, the department’s chairman.
“This is what an emergency department should look like, and we wish this is what the whole emergency room looked like,” he said.
For the trauma center, hospital officials said they will hire three surgeons. The unit contains five beds and will receive adult and pediatric patients.
The next phase of the plan is projected to cost about $8.5 million and would add 17 beds to the main Emergency Department. The department now has some 37 beds, with 10 that can be used in the event of an overflow of capacity, Rosenthal said.
While the hospital has been treating these trauma cases through its Emergency Department for 25 years, the 7,500-square-foot addition brings the hospital closer to being certified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level 1 trauma center.
Hospital officials anticipate gaining final ACS approval in the spring. North Shore-LIJ Health System’s North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset is the only medical facility in Nassau County with the distinction, according to a list on the group’s website.
The Emergency Department at Winthrop logged 70,000 visits in 2014 and likely will have seen the same if not more in 2015, hospital officials said. Of those visits, about 1,300 — or an average two to three per day — are classified as trauma.
About 60 percent of the trauma cases are due to falls in the local geriatric population, said Dr. Alex Axelrad, chief of trauma. Severely injured older adults are the most at risk of death from trauma, he said.
Among the things that American College of Surgeons officials look at when verifying a trauma center is volume.
New York hospitals must go through a rigorous verification process by the Chicago-based accrediting body. Until about two years ago, the state Department of Health was responsible for designating trauma centers. Hospitals with a Level 1 verification are able to treat the most critical patients.
Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps Chief Gregory Kozlowski said Winthrop’s new trauma center will help streamline the process of caring for those critical cases and make it easier for first responders to do their jobs more efficiently.
“Not only are we going to bring patients to the closest hospital, but we’ll know the closest one is the best option,” Kozlowski said.