Memorial Hospital could become the first hospital in Colorado in decades to achieve Level One trauma center certification from the state — and the only hospital to have the designation outside Denver.
The hospital announced Thursday that it is starting a feasibility study, the first step in the process to achieve the designation from the Department of Public Health and Environment.
The process will take millions of dollars in new hires and new equipment, but officials both from Memorial and from its partner, University of Colorado Health, say the expense is both necessary and important.
“This is just an example of the great support that we can tap into,” said Mike Scialdone, CEO of Memorial Hospital. “We will be the only hospital outside the Denver metro area with a level one center.”
Currently, both Memorial and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services are Level Two trauma centers, which means the hospitals are required to have round-the-clock staffing of neurosurgeons, orthopedics and cardiologists.
But Level One requires having more – and having it all the time.
“Memorial has some of the Level One capabilities already,” said Bruce Schroffel, CEO of University of Colorado Health, which includes Memorial, University of Colorado Hospital, Poudre Valley Health System and Children’s Hospital. “It just doesn’t have it all the time.”
While there’s no financial estimate and no time frame – Scialdone said it could take as little as one year or as long as three years – the hospital administrators believe the need is there for a Level One trauma center that will cover all of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.
“I think Albuquerque has a Level Two center,” Schroffel said. “But there isn’t a Level One for many, many miles.”
And with complicated trauma and medical emergencies, every second counts, experts say. Currently, the very worst cases in the region are flown via helicopter to Denver, a process that can take too long.
“We see a need for this here,” Schroffel said. “And we’re pleased to be able to provide it.”
There will be some jobs added and some equipment purchased to fill the state’s requirements for a Level One center, Scialdone said. But there are no estimates yet as to how many.
“We’re still in the very beginning stages,” he said. “And it’s going to take some time to figure out where we need to go from here to make this happen.”