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Supervisors approve trauma center for San Joaquin County

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Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 11:59 am | Updated: 6:01 am, Wed Dec 7, 2011.

By mid-2013, people with life-threatening injuries may not have to leave San Joaquin County for the rapid care they need.

Currently, victims suffering from major injuries are usually airlifted to Kaiser Hospital in South Sacramento, Doctors Hospital in Modesto or Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, CEO David Culberson of San Joaquin General Hospital told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

And for extreme brain trauma, patients are transported more than 30 miles to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, which is a higher-level trauma center than Kaiser or the Modesto hospitals, Culberson said.

Culberson hopes to convert San Joaquin General into a so-called Level Three trauma center by mid-2013, which he said will improve critically injured patients' chance for survival.

Supervisor Steve Bestolarides, who chairs San Joaquin General's interim board of trustees, said that the county-owned hospital will generate a profit once it becomes a trauma center.

A 2005 study by the county Emergency Medical Services Agency reports that the preventable death rate for patients sustaining traumatic injuries in San Joaquin County was two to three times higher than emergency medical systems that have an organized trauma system.

County EMS plans to draft a trauma plan for approval by the Board of Supervisors in 2012, Culberson said.

Once San Joaquin General becomes a Level Three hospital, work will start to elevate the French Camp hospital into Level Two, the same designation as Kaiser and the Modesto hospitals.

The Board of Supervisors endorsed the plan to convert San Joaquin General into a trauma center on Tuesday.

Culberson said that trauma centers don't specialize in treating cardiac cases and strokes.

According to a feasibility study by The Abaris Group, a consulting firm, the hospital will generate 800 or more new trauma patients, increasing profits by $2.5 million, as a Level Three center.

When it is upgraded to Level Two, Abaris estimates it will see between 1,247 to 1,525 trauma patients per year. With $6 million needed for start-up costs for a Level Two center, San Joaquin General would have a net income ranging from $808,000 to $2.4 million per year.

The $6 million in start-up costs should be recouped within three to five years after being designated as a Level Two trauma center, according to the consultant's report.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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