McALLEN – Monday, South Texas Health System officially announced McAllen Medical Center as the first hospital in Hidalgo County designated as a Level II Trauma Center with an around the clock board-certified trauma surgeons.

The designation by the Texas Department of State Health Services was achieved by following the standards of the American College of Surgeons and required McAllen Medical Center to meet the essential criteria that demonstrate trauma care capability and institutional performance.

The trauma center will have four surgeons on staff including one fellow from the San Antonio Military Medical Center, a Level I Trauma Center, that will learn to care for patients on a solo basis, one that would be similar to performing surgery during combat.

“The Rio Grande Valley’s regional trauma system has been strengthened by the designation of our McAllen Medical Center as a Level II Trauma Center. And we are not stopping there,” said Todd Mann, CEO for McAllen Medical Center. “In fact, we are on a journey to become Hidalgo County’s first and only Level I Trauma Center and we appreciate the support of our community and elected officials as we seek that designation.”

The only difference between a Level II trauma center and a Level I trauma center is the research component and having a rotation of students. The care would be the same.

“The level of care is equal,” Mann said. “It is the highest level in terms of care provided to the residents of the Valley.”

Moving towards the research component, the administration at South Texas Health System plans become designated. Mann said the bigger need was to get the clinical component in place to begin the care in the upper Valley. The research component would be within South Texas Health System where physicians and staff can collaborate for research projects to submit to accrediting bodies.

The timeline becomes dependent on state regulators which will do a three-day survey of the facility to make sure components are in place. The majority of the information needed by the state is data driven.

Regulators will look back up to 24 months to make sure the operating room was functioning as the Level II trauma center. There cannot be any delays from a neurosurgeon, they will look at outcomes and continual improvement from the hospital. The designation is dependent on McAllen Medical Center having the infrastructure.

McAllen Medical Center has been accredited since October 2018 but because of the government shutdown, the license to operate was not received until three weeks ago. Since then, McAllen Medical Center has registered 160 patients which have met the criteria from the ACS as a Level II designation.

“That does not mean we did not see more patients in the emergency room,” Mann said. “We see about 3,000 patients a month.

Patients travel from far to McAllen Medical Center because of the new designation. The only other Level II Trauma Center in the Rio Grande Valley is in Harlingen. Mann said patients from Laredo have been flown in to receive care, which is why their focus was on the upper Valley.

Although the designation has only been officially in place for a short period of time, the practice has been in place for three years.

“We have been taking care of people in the Rio Grande Valley in trauma situations for some time,” Mann said.

Mann also added that local emergency management service providers recognizes McAllen Medical Center as a place to take trauma patients.

Recently Texas legislators have wanted to fund more medical centers to upgrade to Level I trauma centers but Mann just hopes it is done on a fair level playing field. Mann said they took on the burden to upgrading to Level II and never asked for funding from the state. South Texas Health System did it on their own because it was the right thing to do, but Mann wants their fair share should the state provide funding for Level I designations.

 

By The Numbers

Now first, second and third-year residents with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine can train in rotations that in the Level II Trauma Center at McAllen Medical Center.

In 2018 at McAllen Medical Center were only six percent of the 1,251 trauma admissions were transferred.

The trauma mortality rate for McAllen Medical Center is lower than the state and national average. The national estimated rate for trauma mortalities is 4.31 percent in Texas, most recent data for Texas mortality rate was 2.15 percent in 2015. In 2018, the STHS McAllen mortality rate was 2.14 percent.