Providence, Harborview hospitals differ on trauma care capacity

A hospital’s trauma-care designation reflects the capabilities of the emergency room to treat severe injuries. Harborview Medical Center in Seattle is rated Level I for both adult and pediatric patients. Providence Regional Medical Center Everett is rated Level II for adults and Level III for pediatrics.

The system was set up in the 1990s to help emergency responders decide where to send patients. The ratings reflect the number and variety of doctors on hand, said Dolly Fernandes, who specializes in emergency medical services and trauma care for the state Department of Health.

The goal is to get a patient to the highest appropriate level of trauma care within 30 minutes, Fernandes said.

The rating system has been in the news after the shootings last week at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Officials at Seattle’s Harborview and Airlift Northwest have wondered why they were not involved in the early stages of the emergency response.

All four patients transported from the scene, ages 14 and 15, were taken by ambulance to Providence. The state defines a pediatric trauma patient as 15 or younger.

To earn the highest pediatric rank, a hospital must have an array of pediatric specialists available to treat trauma patients within five minutes, Fernandes said.

Those include pediatric neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, orthopedic specialists, vascular surgeons, cranial facial surgeons and plastic surgery specialists, Fernandes said.

“If you go to a pediatric surgical suite, they will have special equipment for pediatric” patients, she said.

In 2013, Harborview had 575 trauma cases involving children 15 and younger, while Providence treated 110, according to the Department of Health.

Providence’s Level 3 rating for pediatrics means it is capable of providing initial evaluation and stabilization of pediatric patients, Fernandes said, but that doesn’t limit them to such treatment. “If they have neurosurgeons available, then they can do that,” she said.

After Friday’s shootings, Providence neurosurgeons treated three patients for gunshot wounds to the head.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

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