Categorized | Featured, Health

Kona Community Hospital now offers Level III trauma care

Members of the Kona Community Hospital's trauma team and guests celebrate the designation Wednesday evening. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

When something bad happens in West Hawaii, residents can be assured county emergency crews and Kona Community Hospital staff are ready to step in as a team and save lives.

KCH, along with Hilo Medical Center, recently has earned a Level III Trauma Care designation, which means patients can expect trauma-trained surgeons, emergency department physicians and nurses to be available 24 hours a day. The hospitals also have anesthesia, laboratory and radiology services, and other medical staff ready to act 24 hours a day.

The state Department of Health, Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention Branch, has awarded the HHSC community hospitals the designations following a two-year process.

Sen. Josh Green speaks at the celebration. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Finn Gallagher)


Among the hospital staff, dignitaries and invited guests at KCH for Wednesday evening’s celebration was Sen. Josh Green, who also is an emergency room physician.

Green listed a number of people who have lost their lives in recent years due to car crashes and apologized for getting a little emotional as he praised the hospital staff.

“You have made West Hawaii a place where more people will live and survive these terrible accidents,” he said. “I’m so proud of you for deciding to make this a priority. You’re doing a loving, wonderful thing for this community, so congratulations.”

Peggy Sale, state Department of Health trauma program coordinator, praised the hospital for persevering through a time of budget cuts and economic uncertainty.

“We get in the habit of saying we have to do more with less,” she said. “This is a big deal, but it’s not the first step.”

Sale said she was encouraged the first time she read a field report from a medic that stated ‘notified KCH to activate trauma team.’ That meant, she said, the entire medical community had embraced the concept.

Sale said she also was pleased when a KCH staff member asked her to review a case to see how the patient might have been cared for better.

“That was another huge step forward,” she said. “As soon as you think you’ve done the best job you can, that’s the first step in failing.”

Before they were awarded the Level III designations, Hilo Medical Center and Kona Community Hospital trauma teams had to meet Level III criteria for a full year. During the last year, the two hospitals responded to more than 460 cases.

KCH trauma program coordinator Wendi Wagner, RN, said an organized response to a trauma case allows for the initial evaluation and stabilization to occur in the most efficient and expedient manner.

“Our primary goal is to have better outcomes for those trauma patients in our community,” Wagner said.

Because KCH is a smaller facility – with 450 staff and 30 departments – trauma leaders are available to review and evaluate cases and make improvements quickly. She said she is able to talk face-to-face with everyone involved from the medics to the nurses, doctors and technicians.

“That makes a big difference right there, because not everything is on a patient’s chart and if you weren’t there, you don’t really know” she said, noting that the county EMS crews have been supportive throughout the certification process and are an integral part of caring for trauma patients.

Kahu Danny Akaka gave a traditional Hawaiian blessing. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Finn Gallagher)

Jay Kreuzer, who was appointed KCH CEO earlier this year, said it’s all about saving lives.

“They did it just yesterday,” he said. “If you are a patient, everyone is waiting for you to arrive and it makes a real difference. It’s great to come into a community and know it’s a community that really supports this.”

Alistair Bairos, one of five surgeons on the trauma team, said he was thinking Wednesday evening of former ER chief Dr. Doug Rogers.

“He’s the one who really started this whole journey. We owe this to him,” Bairos said. “He’s the one who went to Honolulu way back when and told them ‘You don’t understand. Sometimes we don’t have that golden hour. We’re a big island. We need this.'”

Without Rogers’ insistence that state lawmakers and health officials pay attention to the Big Island’s needs, KCH would not have its Level III designation today.

Rogers was ER chief 1975-2002. He died June 4, 2011, in the same hospital room where he had saved so many lives.

Members of the trauma team are recognized at Wednesday's celebration. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

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