Santa Clara County Officials Recommend Restricting Trauma Care to County Residents
Santa Clara County health officials this fall will recommend ending a policy that allows trauma patients from nearby counties to be transported directly to trauma centers in Santa Clara County for treatment, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The expected policy change would require trauma patients in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties to undergo initial treatment at local community hospitals while doctors try to gain admittance for patients at trauma centers, according to the Chronicle.
Over the past 10 years, informal agreements with Santa Clara County allowed the neighboring counties to directly transport patients with serious injuries to SJMC, Stanford University Hospital or county-run Valley Medical Center, which have 24-hour surgery centers, medical specialists and emergency equipment, the Chronicle reports.
There are no trauma centers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties. The policy change would affect about 300 patients per year, the Chronicle reports.
The decision follows Nashville-based HCA Healthcare's announcement last week that San Jose Medical Center will close by Dec. 1 (Gaura, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17). HCA has proposed moving SJMC's trauma center to Regional Medical Center of San Jose, which HCA also owns, but county health officials say they could delay or block the proposal to ensure that the relocated center would meet trauma center regulations (California Healthline, 9/15).
Some doctors said that the two trauma centers continuing to operate in Santa Clara County would be overcrowded even if treatment to noncounty residents is restricted and that the county should establish a third center as soon as possible.
"The most frustrating situation imaginable is when we have someone we know needs to be in a trauma center, and we're just barely keeping them alive in a community hospital," Kent Benedict, director of emergency medical services for Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, said.
Robert Sillen, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital Systems, said he favors expanding the remaining two trauma centers. He said, "My obligation is to make sure that Santa Clara County residents are taken care of. And the fact is that if we don't take out-of-county (patients), the two remaining centers will be about the right size."
The county Board of Supervisors will review the recommendation and make a final decision (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17).