ELIZABETH, NJ — Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth is seeking designation as a Level II trauma center, which the hospital has said is important in an area that has previously been the target of terrorist activity.
A Level II trauma center offers 24-hour care by general surgeons and provides orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine and more. The designated hospital can refer patients to a Level I center, which provides additional resources to patients.
Trinitas is in need of the designation especially in this “era of terrorism” and because of its proximity to an international airport, shipping ports, chemical and fuel manufacturing and major highways, according to Trinitas President and CEO Gary Horan.
“We’re seeing that the more hospitals that are prepared for trauma, the better you’re going to be able to care for those patients,” Horan said in a Nov. 6 phone interview.
The state Department of Health put out a call for Union County hospitals to submit applications for the Level II designation in August.
There are currently no Level II trauma centers in Union County, according to the DOH.
“The department is initiating this call because an acute care hospital has presented documentation indicating that there may be a potential need for a Level II trauma center in Union County,” said a public notice from the DOH.
The Level II designation requires that a hospital treat 350 trauma patients a year. Horan said Trinitas has been handling more than 400 trauma cases for the past 10 years, from gunshot and stab wounds to automobile accidents, industrial falls and more.
“We meet the criteria,” Horan said. “There’s really no reason why we should not be designated. We want the designation to show really what we’re doing.”
The designation would be more of a “formality,” but having the title would help attract and retain well-trained staff in emergency room intensive care, Horan said.
There’s been little pushback to receive the designation, Horan said. Since the hospital already does “meet the criteria,” it would carry no additional cost to the state, he said.
The only source of contention may come from other hospitals in the county that may want the designation in order to draw more patients, Horan noted.
However, no other Union County hospitals submitted applications for the designation by the state’s deadline, according to DOH spokesperson Nicole Kirgan.
A hospital may get a small increase in Medicaid if they receive the designation, Horan said, adding, “I think there’s a little more increase in the Medicaid reimbursement, but that’s not the reason we’re doing it. Nothing would really change because we’re already doing it. But what will change is, it will help us retain and recruit staff in emergency room intensive care.”
There are currently three Level I and six Level II trauma centers in New Jersey, according to a release from Trinitas. Newark University Hospital is the only Level I trauma center in the region.
Elizabeth is the only other city in the state that has more than 100,000 residents and no trauma center, Horan said in a statement.
The American College of Surgeons evaluates and grants verification, but not designations, to hospitals.
Trinitas does not currently have verification from the ACS, although Trinitas “qualifies” for it, Horan said in a statement.
Trinitas submitted its application for the Level II designation Oct. 31, Kirgan said.
The DOH will review any written submissions received from third parties in support or opposition to each application, then prepares staff recommendations for the state Health Planning Board, which must hold a public meeting within 60 days of the date the hospital’s application is deemed complete, Kirgan said.
The public has an opportunity to submit written and oral comments to the board before it votes to approve or deny the application.
Recommendations from the board are sent to the commissioner, who has 120 days to issue a decision, Kirgan added.
The Trinitas emergency department recently underwent an $18.7 million expansion that increased the number of treatment rooms from 27 to 45, added three intensive care unit beds and updated equipment, according to a recent release from the hospital.