Santa Clara County Trauma Centers Unnecessarily Overburdened, Consultants Say
About four months after Santa Clara County officials authorized a third county trauma center, consultants from the Walnut Creek-based Abaris Group reported that many county patients are sent to trauma centers but do not require specialized care, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
The county commissioned the consultants' report in fall 2004 when HCA Healthcare announced it would close San Jose Medical Center in December 2004. The county Board of Supervisors in May designated Regional Medical Center for the new trauma center.
The consultants said that, based on the number of trauma patients sent home without hospital admission, the county over-triage rate -- the percentage of patients sent to trauma centers who do not need trauma care -- was more than 45% and only 14% of injuries treated at county trauma centers were considered major. Sixty-nine percent of injuries treated at county trauma centers were minor, according to the consultants.
According to medical authorities, over-triage should occur at a rate of about 20%, to keep under-triage -- sending trauma patients to hospitals not equipped to treat them -- at a rate of about 1%. Over-triage results in high costs and overburdens highly trained surgeons, the Mercury News reports.
The consultants said the county should have only two trauma centers: Valley Medical Center and Stanford University Hospital. According to the Mercury News, trauma centers "tend to be a money-loser," and sharing fewer trauma patients among three hospitals could threaten their financial stability (Woolfolk, San Jose Mercury News, 9/8).