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St. James Achieves Level III Trauma Rating

April 10, 2009
St. James Healthcare received an improved trauma designation that will allow the hospital to treat all but the most serious of brain injuries. Trauma coordinator and nurse Robin Foley had been working since 2003 to enhance the hospital's designation. This year, the work finally paid off. The American College of Surgeons named the hospital a Level III trauma center, a step up from the hospital's previous classification. "It's a big deal," said Dr. Frank Raiser, St. James Healthcare's trauma director. "The designation shows a commitment to the community and region." And a need certainly exists for trauma care in the area, the two said, because southwest Montana is such a popular outdoor recreational area. "We see a ton of motor vehicle injuries," Raiser said. "But we are ready for them. The hospital sees patients suffering from severe trauma on almost a daily basis. These include injuries from car accidents, gunshots, stabbings, fist fights and falls. Trauma centers are ranked on a scale of I-IV, with Level I institutions providing the best trauma care. A Level III hospital does not have the full availability of specialists, but does have resources for emergency resuscitation, surgery and intensive care for most trauma patients, according the College of Surgeons. "Because we can now treat nearly all types of trauma right here in Butte, patients don't often need to be transported to another hospital," Foley said. That makes care safer and less costly, and it may also make St. James busier. Raiser said area hospitals, including St. Peter's in Helena, that do not have Level III trauma centers will look increasingly to Butte for care of their injured patients. "We're building our relationships with area hospitals," he said. "St. James has the potential to be the trauma center for southwest Montana." Raiser said a third surgeon will be on board later this year to join him and Dr. Shannon Tipton as on-call traumatologists. A traumatologist is a surgeon trained specifically in trauma care, and one must be available 24 hours a day, every day, for the hospital to be rated as Level III.