Sierra Vista hospital to get trauma center status

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo will become the county’s sole Level III trauma center March 1, allowing it to heighten its level of trauma care to area residents.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved the agreement and the designation Tuesday morning.

“While we have four hospitals that all offer emergency medicine, Sierra Vista will be the only facility with a specialty designation for trauma treatment,” Steve Lieberman, county emergency medical services director, wrote in an email to The Tribune.

French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Lieberman said, has a specialty designation as a STEMI center, which focuses on cardiac care.

A STEMI — for ST segment elevation myocardial infarction — is considered the most critical type of heart attack, during which the coronary artery is completely blocked by a blood clot. Quick diagnosis and treatment can significantly reduce damage to the heart, Lieberman said.

The purpose of a trauma system is to reduce unnecessary deaths and disabilities caused by severe injuries, according to a report to supervisors from San Luis Obispo County Health Agency Director Jeff Hamm and Health Officer Penny Borenstein.

It provides more immediate and thorough care from highly trained specialists, according to their report, and, “an established process to ensure trauma patients receive immediate evaluation and care from trauma specialists.”

Level III centers have resources for immediate emergency resuscitation, surgery, and intensive care for most trauma patients, according to Hamm and Borenstein’s report.

Trauma is the leading cause of death for people up to age 44, they wrote, and 35 percent of trauma patients in the United States die, “because optimal acute care is not available.”

Supervisors unanimously greeted the designation with enthusiasm. Supervisor Paul Teixeira said he is familiar with traumatic injuries as the supervisor representing South County, where injuries from off-road activities at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area occur.