Trauma centers lacking in Southern Illinois

For many residents of Illinois, the nearest designated trauma center is in a neighboring state. With no trauma centers south of Springfield, Southern Illinois is a trauma care desert, according to The Southern Illinoisan.

The process for becoming a trauma center is voluntary, and its high costs dissuade many hospitals from the undertaking, said Melaney Arnold, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Health.

"For a hospital to become a trauma center in Illinois, it voluntarily seeks either a Level I (highest) or Level II (lower) trauma center designation from IDPH. Requirements for designation include certain qualified staff, such as subspecialty surgeons — neurosurgeons, cardiothoracic, orthopedic — and sophisticated diagnostic and monitoring equipment," said Ms. Arnold, according to the report. "Due to these requirements, costs for operating a Level I or Level II trauma center can exceed $20 million annually. Because of this high financial burden, many hospitals are not able to afford to be designated as a trauma center, and IDPH does not have the legislative, fiscal, or operational authority to require a hospital to become a trauma center."

Although there are no designated trauma centers in the southern part of the state, three Illinois hospitals meet a majority of the criteria for Level II and Level I trauma centers, according to an IDPH Trauma Center Feasibility Study published in January. To receive designation, a hospital must meet 70 criteria for Level II and 85 for Level I.

However, when ambulances are dispatched for serious trauma cases, they sometimes transport patients directly to designated trauma centers in Cape Girardeau, Mo., St. Louis or Evansville, Ind., according to the report.

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