Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital has gained recognition as a top-tier Level 1 center for trauma care, the first in Lancaster County and one of only 18 across Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation recently accredited the county’s largest hospital as a Level 1 trauma center. Lancaster General Hospital, which last year treated more than 2,800 trauma patients, had been a Level 2 center since 1986.
As a Level 2 trauma center, Lancaster General already had a trauma surgeon and operating room teams in the hospital around the clock to offer immediate, expert care for patients injured in falls, crashes, assaults and shootings. There are four levels of trauma center accreditation.
For many years, Lancaster General met 27 of the 28 standards for Level 1 status, needing only a trauma surgical residency program, said Dr. Eric Bradburn, the hospital’s trauma medical director.
The upgrade to Level 1 became possible after the hospital in July 2019 began offering three-month trauma rotations for five doctors who come from five-year general surgical residencies at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine or Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The change to Level 1 is likely to have little impact on the number of trauma patients the hospital treats, Bradburn said.
Lancaster General has typically transferred fewer than five adult patients a year to a Level 1 center, and it is unlikely to get many patients who otherwise would have gone to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Reading Hospital or WellSpan York Hospital, all of which are Level 1 centers in the region.
Lancaster General will continue to transfer children with severe injuries to Level 1 centers accredited for pediatric care, such as Hershey or Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Bradburn said.
The hospital did not offer specifics on the financial impact of the Level 1 accreditation, but Bradburn said the costs are part of “our nonprofit mission of serving everyone in our community.”
People injured in falls comprise about half of the 2,800 trauma cases Lancaster General treats annually, followed by traffic crashes and penetrating wounds from stabbings and shootings, Bradburn said. The volume has increased 44% over 10 years, and saw a 7% spike this year.
Bradburn said research has shown that establishing a training program for surgery residents has downstream benefits that include improvements in surgical outcomes, surgical efficiencies, and patient and surgeon satisfaction. It could also aid in recruiting surgeons to the county, he said.
Bradburn called receiving Level 1 accreditation a team effort that former trauma medical director Dr. Frederick Rogers started about nine years ago.
“Trauma systems save lives,” Bradburn said. “The board of this hospital and the executive leadership are committed to this Level 1 accreditation because it’s about our community. It’s about putting a team and system in place that watches over our community and transforms despair into hope.”