OPINION: Top tier: New DHR status improves medical services for many

We congratulate DHR Health on its designation as the first Level 1 trauma center in South Texas. The achievement marks a major change in the level of access to health care for people who need it most.

The designation, which was announced this Sept. 8, caps off years of work. Officials at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, partnering with Med-Care Emergency Medical Services, announced their goal to establish a Level 1 center in 2018. Members of the American College of Surgeons toured the facility the following year to evaluate the center’s facilities, services and personnel. ACS certification was needed before the Texas Department of State Health Services awarded Level 1 status.

It’s the highest level of trauma care possible in the country, DHR trauma medical director Jeffrey Skubic noted during a recent ceremony to celebrate the designation.

It means that the Rio Grande Valley now has a 24-hour emergency and critical care facility and doctors who can perform both general and specialized procedures such as cardiac, orthopedics, microvascular, neurosurgery and other specialty care. Emergency staff, including a trauma surgeon, anesthesiologist and other specialists will be on site at all times, every day of the year, to be available whenever emergency care is needed.

In simple terms, DHR now becomes a primary destination for patients who need such care, as well as many critically ill or injured people who previously were sent to Houston, San Antonio and other cities because the level of care they needed was not available in the Valley.

This can be a life-saver, as many people who need such are already are in serious, critical or unstable condition, and are placed at greater risk if longer transport delays their access to the care they need.

Undoubtedly, it also will benefit students at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley medical school, who now might be able to experience the treatment of cases that until now would not have been brought to this area.

Level 1 access doesn’t just benefit the Valley. Because it is the only such center in South Texas, it now could be the first healthcare option for patients in rural areas throughout the southern part of the state.

To that end, this also places indirect responsibility on other Valley medical centers, and on the general population, especially during the current wave of COVID-19 infections.

In order to receive patients who need Level 1 services, DHR needs trauma bays, intensive care beds and other facilities to care for them. Other local hospitals should strive to be prepared to accept more non-critical cases in order to keep spaces free at DHR.

More importantly, the general public can help by taking steps to lessen the possibility that they might need hospital treatment in the future. The most obvious is for those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so. Local officials report that almost all COVID-19 cases, and hospitalizations, are among people who are not vaccinated.

DHR Health deserves praise for recognizing the need for top-level emergency medical care, and investing the time and resources to achieve it. It’s a major step toward giving the people of South Texas the level of medical care they need, but struggled to receive.


DHR Health becomes first Level 1 trauma center in South Texas