St. Francis Medical Center apparently has all the qualifications it needs to be designated a Level III trauma center - now it wants the paperwork to make it official.

The certification process conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment could be complete as early as July 1, officials said.

The upgrade is an indication of the population explosion and housing-development boom on the city's far northeast side - a shift that also caused a jump in St. Francis' emergency room patient volume

"That hospital just continues to get busier and busier," spokesman Chris Valentine said.

He said numbers for St. Francis' ER, which sits on the southeast corner of Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard are now "very similar" to its downtown sister facility, Penrose Hospital.

Little is expected to change at St. Francis Medical Center while it seeks the designation, because it already has all of the services required of a Level III unit, Valentine said.

Since opening in 2008, the hospital has been designated as a Level IV center - a facility that specializes in stabilizing patients before transferring them to other hospitals where specialty care is offered for more serious injuries.

The hospital system, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, has routinely upgraded the medical center over the last six years. For example, it opened two new operating rooms in late 2013, boosting the hospital's count to six.

Specifically, Level III certification requirements include added emphasis on inpatient-medical and surgical care, as well as physicians and nurses immediately available in emergencies, according to Colorado's health department website. Surgeons must be available to operate within 20 minutes, the website said.

Officials from the state's health department are expected to review the hospital's services on June 19, with a decision expected a couple weeks later.

Penrose Hospital, the network's main hospital, announced plans in September to pursue a Level I trauma center designation, a move that came about a month after Memorial Hospital's bid to seek the same high-level designation.

Level I approval for either hospital would mark the first such designation for any hospital in Colorado outside of the Denver metro area.

Both hospitals are still working to implement all the requirements for the designation.