UCH Level I trauma center could save lives

By: The Gazette editorial
August 4, 2013 Updated: August 4, 2013 at 10:25 am
photo - Memorial Hospital Central Saturday, January 28, 2012. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Memorial Hospital Central Saturday, January 28, 2012. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

If it saves just one life, we should do it.

So says one of the stupider political cliches of our time. If saving just one life justifies all, regardless of cost, we should outlaw cars, bicycles, swimming pools, airplanes and everything else that kills.

Sometime positive actions, which create and advance society, stand to save one or more lives. That's when we should invoke "if it saves just one life" as a worthy consideration. While banning cars and motorcycles would come at too high a cost for society, we can justify new hospitals, helmets, drugs and other advancements that stand to save one or more lives while creating constructive new jobs and improving the human condition. Unlike prohibitions, healthy achievements promote progress.

So it makes great sense that University of Colorado Health wants Level I trauma status for emergency rooms at Memorial Hospital's operations on 1400 E. Boulder St. and the north facility at 4050 Briargate Parkway. Success in achieving this designation will save many lives over the course of years to come. The Gazette has advocated the pursuit of Level I designation since early talk of University of Colorado Health leasing and operating the city-owned hospital system.

Too often, we're a community that declines to think big. Baby boomers remember when our city was just a small town. Today, it's a city with a metro population approaching 700,000. Memorial's emergency room on Boulder Street is the busiest in the state. It is time to think big.

Today, the Boulder Street location is a Level II facility and the Briargate location has no designation.

"Having a Level I trauma center in our community will save lives," said Dr. Patrick Faricy, Memorial's chief medical officer, as quoted in The Gazette.

Don't take this wrong. Memorial's emergency rooms are already capable of most services provided by Level I facilities, and the hospital seldom has to fly patients to Level I centers in Denver. But no patient fighting for her life in Colorado Springs should ever endure a trip to Denver for slightly more specialized and sophisticated care.

"By offering these expert and specialized trauma care services right here in Colorado Springs, the survival rate of the patients will increase dramatically," Faricy said.

The announcement to seek Level I designation comes one year into a $90 million, three-year improvement project that has already resulted in the hiring of 14 cardiologists, two breast surgeons, two neurosurgeons, two cardiothoracic surgeons, a trauma surgeon and about 75 support staff.

If the hospital is granted Level I status by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, it will meet an increased standard of research and training. A Level I unit presents at least 20 peer-reviewed research articles in a medical journal every three years, meaning medical professionals in the Springs will constantly try to advance modern medicine.

Achieving Level I will take one to three years, but it is well worth the time and effort.

Our city's other great hospital system, Penrose-St. Francis Hospital and Health Services, already ranks among HealthGrades 50 Best Hospitals - meaning it's among the top 1 percent of hospitals in the nation. Competition is a wonderful thing, and we hope Memorial's pursuit of Level I trauma status will lead Penrose-St. Francis to seek a similar designation or make other upgrades that will take medicine in Colorado Springs to an even higher level.

It is time for Colorado Springs to think big and stop acting like the state's second city. Memorial's pursuit of Level I trauma status provides a move in the right direction.

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