EDINBURG — Marking a historic achievement, DHR Health is now a Level 1 trauma center, the first and only hospital south of San Antonio to receive the designation.
DHR Health officials, along with city and county officials, rejoiced at the announcement during a news conference held Wednesday which hospital CEO, Dr. Manish Singh, described as a “game-changer” for the Rio Grande Valley community.
“This means you now have access to the highest level of trauma care 24 hours a day, seven days a week and every single day of the year,” Manish said.
As a Level 1 trauma center, DHR Health is capable of providing care for all levels of injury at all hours.
“Level 1 trauma center is the highest of trauma care possible in the country, it means you’re verified by the American College of Surgeons and your state designates you for the highest level of emergencies and traumas,” said Dr. Jeffrey Skubic, trauma medical director. “When patients are badly injured in a car accident, gunshot wound, a stabbing, falling down — any of those things — they have to be taken for emergency care and there are four designations for that, Level 1 being the highest one.”
Without the capabilities of a Level 1 trauma center, specialists are sometimes not available at certain times such as holidays or nights. But now, Skubic said, patients will have access to that care 24/7 and should not have to be sent elsewhere.
The hospital now has a trauma surgeon that sleeps at the hospital every night of the year in addition to three surgery residents, Skubic added. In fact, their entire operative team including anesthesiologists, sleep at the hospital in shifts.
“What the public should know, now, is for any injury that you receive, no matter how badly, no one should be transferred outside of the region,” Skubic said. “There is no more sending patients to San Antonio, you no longer have to be shipped 240 miles after you receive a bad injury. You can be taken care of right here in the region, you don’t have to leave.”
As the first hospital in the region to receive the designation, DHR will now serve a 14-county area for which DHR is now the nearest Level 1 trauma center.
“The truth is that it is physically almost impossible to move somebody from here to a Level 1 trauma center outside of our area prior to our designation,” said Dr. Carlos Cardenas, DHR Health board chairman. “From the time that you reach them in the field to the time that they can get to that level of care, you have an hour to make a difference. Outside that hour, patients don’t do as well.”
That, Cardenas said, is what is so significant about reaching the Level 1 designation.
In addition to those services, the hospital also had to show that they engage in public education in the community, provide continuing education for trauma team members, and conduct trauma research.
From June 28 through June 29, the American College of Surgeons conducted a survey of the hospital to ensure it met those requirements.
“They go through everything from your call schedules to the physicians you have — they look at where we’ve trained,” Skubic said. “They actually take patient charts and review them and see the care we’ve provided and you have to meet hundreds if not into the thousands of different requirements for it including education — you have to have surgery residents — and you have to publish trauma research, you have to be well-published, and be involved in community outreach so there’s so many components to it.”
As part of that research, the hospital must publish 20 articles every three years, continuously, Skubic added.
“I think it’s a tremendous achievement because the human capital it took to get to achieve this is unbelievable,” Cardenas said. “The level of specialties, the depth of the bench that you have to have in order to make this happen is pretty significant.”
Gov. Greg Abbott also took part in the news conference, ceremoniously signing into law Senate Bill 827, a bill that limits the co-pays to $25 for each insulin prescription per month for Texans who are insured.
Abbott signed the bill into law in June and it went into effect on Sept. 1.
During the ceremony, Abbott also applauded hospital and local officials for their work in achieving the Level 1 designation.
“This is a substantial milestone for DHR and for the Rio Grande Valley,” Abbott said, adding that because of the growth of the Valley, the area needed the access to these healthcare services.
“You needed and you deserved to have a Level 1 trauma center in the Rio Grande Valley,” Abbott said. “That is now true today.”