After a two-year hiatus, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit again has been verified by the American College of Surgeons' Committee on Trauma as a Level 1 trauma center and becomes the third hospital in Detroit to hold the distinction.
Meanwhile, the Level 1 trauma center at 651-bed Oklahoma University Medical Center will stay open after the Oklahoma Health Care Authority boosted its Medicaid payments.
Henry Ford Hospital, with 903 licensed beds, first earned Level 1 status in 1995, which was re-verified by the ACS at the regular three-year interval. The hospital did not re-apply in 2002, however, a time of turmoil and financial distress.
Scott Dulchavsky, M.D., chairman of the department of surgery at Henry Ford Hospital, said the renewal deadline in 2002 coincided with an increase in the ACS' requirements for verification and came as turnaround specialists from the Hunter Group were pouring over the hospital's financial records, leading to more than 100 layoffs. In addition, the surgery department -- where much of the heavy lifting occurs in the re-verification process -- was without a chief.
Hospital officials thought it prudent to pass on the Level 1 verification at the time but continued to operate the trauma unit as before, Dulchavsky said. "We were never out of it. It's just the certification on the wall wasn't there," he said.
The ACS' verification carries no legal force in Michigan. Its value is in symbolizing to the city, state and nation that the entire hospital is committed to serving the most critically needy patients, Dulchavsky said.
Dulchavsky said he started to pursue ASC re-verification when he became chief of surgery last July. "We're happy and thrilled," he said of the re-verification. "I anticipate we won't let it lapse again."
OU Medical Center also received good news this week.
The medical center operates the only Level 1 trauma unit in Oklahoma, and it was having fiscal troubles. Citing a $9 million loss on the trauma unit since its opening three years ago, hospital officials planned to close the unit in December 2003 but granted the city and state a six-month extension to address the problem.
On Thursday, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced it would increase Medicaid payments to the trauma center by $7.2 million annually. Previously, Medicaid paid the center $6.5 million less than the cost of services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries, a state official said.
The larger issue was a dysfunctional statewide trauma system that poured patients into OU Medical Center without regard to the level of care needed, hospital spokesman Allen Poston said. "We were catching (trauma level) ones, twos and threes -- we were catching them all," Poston said. "It was at the breaking point."
He credited Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry with spearheading negotiations involving all parties to rationalize the system.
"If a Level 2 occurs now, there will be a rotation basis with the other hospitals, so we don't get them all," Poston said.
Henry also pushed through the legislature a tobacco tax plan that would raise $8.5 million annually for trauma care. The tobacco tax plan goes before voters in November for final approval.