The trauma program at Mercy Hospital in Springfield has achieved Level I designation from the Arkansas Department of Health as providing the highest level of trauma care.
Mercy received the designation following a survey by the state health department, which is administering a new statewide trauma system. At the top of the system for coordinating emergency care in the state, Level I trauma centers must have specialized surgeons on duty at all times to quickly care for the most serious and urgent cases.
Mercy also remains the region’s only Level I trauma center as certified by the state of Missouri, covering the southern half of the state..
The Mercy program includes board-certified emergency medicine physicians and trauma surgeons. Mercy’s trauma services include a state-of-the-art Emergency Department that opened in 2004, along with a major hospital expansion. The department also features general X-ray rooms and computed tomography (CT) scanners, eliminating the need to transport trauma patients for imaging.
"The Level I designation reflects hard work by our trauma program and hospital to be a catalyst for improving trauma care in Arkansas,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, Mercy’s chief trauma surgeon. “Our trauma program encompasses a broad, multi-disciplinary approach to patient care that builds on a foundation of our skilled professionals and our facilities.".
Level I centers also must include education, preventive and outreach programs as well as a program of trauma research. Mercy’s education programs include hosting regular symposiums for health care professionals across the state on new emergency medicine techniques or refresher courses on trauma practices.
Mercy leads or participates in numerous injury prevention programs including youth accident prevention programs, driver safety programs and education and car seat safety education.
The statewide trauma system will connect hospitals, ambulance services and other emergency responders statewide to transfer trauma patients as quickly as possible to the facility best able to treat their specific injuries. Four levels of trauma designations for Arkansas hospitals denote the kinds of resources available in a trauma center and the number of patients admitted yearly..
Injuries remain the leading cause of death for adults and children ages 1-44. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said for those with severe injuries, getting to a Level I trauma center can lower the risk of death by 25 percent. In Arkansas, the death rate for all injuries has been consistently higher than the national average..
A 2008 report by the American College of Surgeons said the overall injury fatality rate in Arkansas is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average, and the injury fatality rate for motor vehicle crashes (the second most common injury mechanism in the state) is 60 percent higher than the national average. In 2005, Arkansas ranked 50th in the nation for timely trauma center accessibility.
Act 393, which established the trauma system, was approved by the state Legislature in 2009 and signed into law by Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe on March 13, 2009.