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FOR RELEASE: July 1, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Oklahoma’s Trauma System Helps Save Lives

In Oklahoma, traumatic injury is the leading cause of death for persons ages 1 to 44 and results in more years of lost productive life than any other cause of death. Injury in America costs nearly $180 billion a year.

“If we can find ways to prevent injuries and to respond quickly to life-threatening situations, we can continue to save lives,” said Pam Broyles, R.N., Oklahoma Trauma Systems Coordinator.

Trauma systems development began in Oklahoma in 1993 and has progressed steadily since. The trauma system is an organized approach to coordinating a multidisciplinary response to severely injured patients. It includes a continuum of care involving the following:

  • injury prevention
  • emergency medical services
  • emergency department care
  • surgical intervention
  • intensive and general surgical in-hospital care
  • rehabilitation
  • social services and support groups

“The focus of this system of care is to allow both the patient and their family to return to society at the most productive level possible. Multiple studies have shown that implementation of trauma systems results in a 50 to 80 percent reduction in preventable deaths,” said Broyles. “These systems are manpower intensive and can be expensive to operate, but their importance to our health care system is tremendous.”

More Oklahoma hospitals are needed to serve at all levels of the trauma system. Currently there are 103 hospitals classified as level three and level four trauma hospitals, but only three hospitals are classified as level one or level two. Level one and two Trauma Centers provide the highest level of care for the trauma patient. These hospitals keep staff in the hospital to provide immediate surgical intervention for the injured. The expense of maintaining the extensive “on-call” roster of specialists required for this level of care is part of the reason that so few facilities are interested in being classified at these levels.

Hospitals in Oklahoma have been required since 1999 to be classified in nine categories of care, including trauma, to better enable Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers and referring facilities to choose the most appropriate facility for the care of their patients. The EMS Division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has developed an award-winning training program that is available to help all Emergency Medical Technicians quickly recognize the level of care needed by the trauma patient and make the most appropriate destination decision.

Health officials offer the following suggestions to help prevent many of the injuries that are cared for by the trauma system.

  • The increased use of seatbelts would go a long way to reducing serious injuries and deaths in Oklahoma. Traffic-related deaths are the number one cause of injury deaths in Oklahoma, and many are preventable. Studies have shown that three out of every five unbelted motorists who die in traffic crashes could have been saved had they been wearing a seat belt.
  • Another key prevention tactic is to increase the use of helmets to prevent traumatic brain injuries. Helmets are important in a wide variety of activities including: motorcycling, bicycling, skateboarding, various sporting activities and may even be used when seeking shelter from tornadoes in your home.

For more information about Oklahoma’s trauma system and the training programs available, contact the OSDH Emergency Medical Services at 405/271-4027.

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