Whitefish hospital gets trauma designation

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The Daily Inter Lake

The state recently designated North Valley Hospital as a community trauma center.

"This designation recognizes us as a trauma facility, providing a team approach to trauma patient care," said Janet Arnold, North Valley's emergency department manager and trauma coordinator.

The designation means that the Whitefish hospital is approved to care for seriously injured patients. However, major traumas may be transferred to a higher level center.

For the past two years, North Valley's emergency department has been training, updating equipment and creating new procedures and policies regarding trauma care.

"Injury mortality and short- and long-term disabilities related to trauma can be decreased by designating trauma facilities," said Dr. Rod Vaught, a North Valley emergency-department physician and the original chairman for the Western Regional Trauma committee.

"The state program presents us with the template that assists us with organizing and training ourselves to provide better care. It also changes the mindset of the staff to think trauma care and as we work as a team. This approach enables more positive patient outcomes," Vaught said.

The state program was prompted by statistics showing that traumatic injuries are the leading cause of death for Montanans under the age of 44, exceeding cancer, heart disease and stroke. Most trauma patients are from car or motorcycle accidents, falls, plus all-terrain vehicle, horse and snowmobile injuries.

"Trauma is on the rise due to seasonal tourism combined with a wealth of outdoor activities," Arnold said.

The state reviewers came to North Valley Hospital and examined the staff, policies and procedures, plus the facility's capabilities and equipment.

The eight-bed emergency department includes two trauma bays with state-of-the-art equipment.

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