Hospital revives trauma treatment program

Johnston-Willis Hospital regained its Level III trauma designation. Courtesy of Johnston-Willis Hospital.

Johnston-Willis Hospital recently regained its Level III trauma designation. Courtesy of Johnston-Willis Hospital.

Looking to take pressure off some of its sister facilities, a Southside hospital has a new designation to allow it to serve more seriously injured patients.

Johnston-Willis Hospital, part of HCA Virginia, is now certified by the state as a Level III trauma center.

That means the hospital’s emergency room has completed specialized training and acquired necessary equipment so it can treat patients with serious injuries – or, in more critical cases, stabilize the patient for transfer to a higher-level center.

A Level III center has immediate, around-the-clock coverage by emergency medical physicians and has general and orthopedic surgeons and anesthesiologists on standby, the hospital said.

Dr. John Hyslop, Johnson-Willis Hospital’s trauma medical director, said it took about eight months to prepare the hospital to apply to the state for Level III designation.

“We’re doing this as a service to our community,” he said. “The trauma centers we have can be loaded with patients, so we can take some of the pressure off of them.”

John Hyslop

John Hyslop

The hospital previously held the Level III designation but gave it up in 2007 to focus on neurological and oncological programs as the need for trauma services declined in the area, Hyslop said.

But demand has picked back up, and Hyslop said they revived the program to assist sister hospital Chippenham, located about six miles away on Jahnke Road.

“Chippenham has the busiest ER in central Virginia,” Hyslop said.

Johnston-Willis, located near the Midlothian Turnpike and Robious Road, is one of three trauma centers in the Richmond area and one of 15 in the state. HCA’s Chippenham Hospital is also a Level III trauma center. Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center is the area’s only Level I trauma center, meaning it has the most staff and equipment to handle serious trauma cases.

In 2013, Johnston-Willis treated 406 trauma patients who had to be admitted to the hospital or transferred to another facility – and that was before it had the trauma center designation.

But Hyslop said that number underrepresents the actual number of trauma patients.

He estimated that about three-quarters of trauma patients are treated and released from the emergency room without the need for hospitalization, and hospitals aren’t required to report those numbers. Those types of patients might be someone observed after a car crash or a patient who gets a cast for a broken leg.

HCA Virginia operates seven hospitals in the Richmond region, including Johnston-Willis Hospital, Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, Parham Doctors’ Hospital, Retreat Doctors’ Hospital, John Randolph Medical Center, Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and Chippenham Hospital.

HCA recently opened Hanover Emergency Center, a freestanding emergency room in Mechanicsville.

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