Hospital Drops Trauma-Case Status Emergencies in Area to Be Routed Away from Holy Family

Article excerpt

Byline: Avian Carrasquillo Daily Herald Staff Writer

Area hospitals could see an increase in trauma patients now that Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines has decided not to treat them.

Wheeling, Mount Prospect, Des Plaines and Prospect Heights fire departments will be the most directly affected.

Wheeling Fire Chief Keith MacIssac said the change does not put anyone in any serious danger, but it will force the departments to find alternate hospitals to alleviate the influx of serious trauma patients to any one hospital.

As of Aug. 6, Holy Family relinquished its status as a Level II trauma center as designated by the Illinois Department of Health. Level II status requires the hospital to have some essential services in-house 24 hours a day, while others can be readily available. Level I status is the highest and requires optimal care for trauma patients with all essential services in-house 24 hours a day.

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, chairman of emergency medical services at Holy Family, said the unexpected departure of one physician left the hospital with a hole in its on-call roster and not enough time to recruit someone new. He said recruitment has become more and more difficult with the rising costs of medical malpractice insurance.

"It was an excruciatingly difficult decision to make, but you don't want to take a chance with patients' lives. You don't want to risk having a hole in the roster on that one day when a patient requires that type of care," he said.

Gordon said that even if the hospital were to find another physician to fill the on-call roster, he's not confident the hospital would re-apply for a Level II status.

The Level II classification meant Holy Family could treat anyone involved in vehicle accidents, falls, accidents at home, blunt trauma injuries, violent acts, and industrial accidents.

The Holy Family emergency room will now only handle basic illnesses and minor injuries, and stabilize severe trauma patients before they can be transferred to other hospitals.

The Illinois Hospital Association reports that several hospitals in southern Illinois are suffering from similar staffing concerns as Holy Family. At Edward Hospital in Naperville, 10 physicians left and four OB/GYNs dropped some services in family practice and obstetrics because of high liability costs, according to association officials.

The ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co., the state's largest insurer of physicians for medical liability, reports that medical liability costs have risen as much as 465 percent since 1994. For instance, an OB/GYN can pay as much as $147,000 annually for liability coverage compared with $50,000 in Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

The IHA reports that those premium increases are the result of jury verdicts and settlements against physicians in Illinois. …