Atlanta Medical gains Level 1 trauma status

Atlanta Medical Center this week received its official designation as a Level 1 trauma center, the kind that handles the most serious cases.

The downtown hospital has operated a Level 2 trauma service for years. AMC now  joins Grady Memorial Hospital as the only Level 1 centers in metro Atlanta.

The Georgia Department of Community Health awarded the designation after certifying that AMC met the qualifying criteria, including staffing, equipment, and volume of trauma patients treated annually.

“Atlanta Medical Center is pleased to have earned the Level  1 designation, particularly in light of our state’s ongoing efforts to upgrade and expand Georgia’s network of trauma care facilities,” said AMC President and CEO William Moore in a statement.

WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta has announced plans to open a Level  2 trauma center later this year. If the state approves the plans, Kennestone will become the only trauma center in the heavily populated northwestern quadrant of metro Atlanta.

The trauma upgrades come despite continuing funding problems for the system. Georgia voters rejected a November referendum that would have set a $10 annual fee on vehicle license tags to help pay for trauma care.

Trauma experts have concluded that on average 700 lives per year are lost in the state because of the lack of accessible trauma care services. A survey of the 17 hospitals within the trauma network in 2007 showed that the combined operating loss on trauma services exceeded $70 million.

Trauma, the leading cause of death of Georgians 44 years of age and younger, is considered any life-threatening injury or shock to the body. Treatment at a Level 1 trauma center increases injured patients’ chances of survival by an estimated 20 percent to 25 percent.

The 460-bed AMC, owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, already is the third-busiest trauma center in the state.

Trauma center designations are based on their trauma care capabilities—from the highest, Level 1, to the lowest, Level  4. Hospitals designated Level  1 must provide, on a 24-hour basis, a level of personnel, equipment and coverage by a full complement of trauma specialties, including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, internal medicine, vascular surgery and others.

Additionally, Level 1 trauma centers must have a surgical residency program, and must annually treat a certain volume of severely injured patients. The centers also must meet requirements for research, prevention and continuing education and outreach programs.