After years of preparations and a $2 million investment, South Nassau Communities Hospital has been certified as a Level II trauma center, allowing the Oceanside medical facility to continue treating life-threatening and disabling injuries.
The center is staffed with a trauma team that, for the first time, includes an on-site surgeon 24 hours a day to care for patients involved in motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, fires and burns and violence such as gunshot wounds.
“Having a surgeon here around the clock, who is employed by the hospital, has made tremendous improvement in the response time,” said Richard J. Murphy, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer. “That trauma surgeon is in the ED [Emergency Department] when the ambulance arrives.”
South Nassau Communities Hospital — which serves about 900,000 residents — is the only medical facility in Nassau County’s South Shore that has received the approval of the American College of Surgeons, the Chicago-based accrediting body, according to a list on the group’s website.
Up until September 2012, the state Department of Health was responsible for designating trauma centers. At that time, the state moved toward a national verification system overseen by the American College of Surgeons, whose verification process is more rigorous, hospital officials said. The accreditation, awarded earlier this month, is good for three years.
Other requirements demanded by the accrediting body include having a supply of certain blood products, such as platelets, on hand, and dedicating an operating room for trauma cases.
Trauma centers are ranked I to IV, based on their resources and level of care.
Three hospitals on Long Island are classified by the surgeons group as Level I trauma centers: Northwell Health system in Manhasset, Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola and Stony Brook University Hospital. Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow is undergoing the review process.
Last year, the Emergency Department at South Nassau Communities Hospital recorded about 60,000 visits, and of those, 1,338 were classified as trauma cases, said hospital spokesman Joe Calderone. Forty-four percent of trauma cases resulted from falls, mostly in the older adult population. The second largest volume of trauma cases, 17 percent, resulted from vehicular crashes.
“We have more capabilities to treat those patients more effectively,” said Dr. Joshua Kugler, chairman of South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Emergency Medicine Department. “We have better outcomes. We are saving more lives.”