Outside, on a specially built concrete platform, a medical transport helicopter was landing to officially open the new, larger helipad of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.
Inside, hospital staffers showed December visitors an impressive new area of trauma bays due to open late this spring.
“About three or four years ago, we knew we needed bigger rooms,” said Dr. Tomas Jacome, trauma surgeon.
By 2014, an area on the second floor of OLOL, close to the size of two football fields, will be devoted to an expanded emergency department that will include the new trauma bays and expanded emergency room areas for children and adults.
The hospital is on its way to being designated as a trauma center for the Baton Rouge region.
“Trauma patients are injured in motor vehicle accidents, falls, workplace injuries, (from) gunshot wounds,” Jacome said.
“Emergency rooms and departments treat ill and injured patients, while trauma centers handle the most severe, life-threatening blunt force and penetrating injuries,” according to the Trauma Center Association of America.
“Trauma centers dedicate extensive staff, physician and faculty sources 24/7, including up to 16 physician specialties so that seriously injured patients have the best possible chance of survival and least residual disability,” the association said.
On Dec. 20, OLOL officially opened its new, elevated helipad that’s greatly increased its capacity to receive helicopters carrying critically ill or injured patients.
The helipad is a 10,000-square-foot concrete structure, 23-feet high, that’s built near the hospital’s emergency room entrance, on the north side of the hospital’s campus.
It can accommodate two large medical transport helicopters, as large as Army Blackhawk craft, or up to four regular-sized medical transport helicopters, according to hospital literature. Dedicated elevators near the helipad bring patients directly to the emergency department.
The previous helipad, which was situated on the ground also near the emergency room entrance, could serve only one regular-sized helicopter.
Inside the new trauma area to open later this year, the four bays, as the rooms are called, are large, to accommodate the number of specialists that might be called in for a trauma patient.
Melissa Magie, director of trauma services at OLOL, lists some of those on the trauma team: doctors, surgeons, nurses, lab technicians, lab and X-ray technicians, anesthesia and blood bank personnel.
The size of the trauma bays will also facilitate the teaching of LSU medical school students.
The establishment of the trauma center in Baton Rouge is an outgrowth of a 2010 partnership between LSU and OLOL to expand services for the poor and make LSU’s medical training program more competitive.
More can be learned about the partnership at the website of the governor’s office, http://www.gov.la.gov.
Another important aspect of the new trauma bays to open this year is that they will be outfitted to serve both children and adults, with all the appropriate-sized equipment available.
For example, a pediatric emergency cart in each room, carrying airway supplies, has different colored drawers with the supplies appropriate for children of different weights.
Over each of the beds is a boom that can be maneuvered into place over the patient and equipped to deliver gases, intravenous hookups and other necessary medical services where the patient is.
“Everything in a regular emergency room would all be in the wall. Now we can bring it to the patient,” said Debbie Ford, vice president of patient services.
The beds in the trauma bay also allow X-ray films to slide in a space under the mattress, so X-rays can be taken without having to further disturb the patient, Magie said.
Trauma patients are currently cared for at OLOL in trauma bays situated in the children’s and adult emergency rooms.
The hospital expects formal designation as a Level II Trauma Center this year and, then, as a Level I Trauma Center, the highest level, in 2014.
A Level I Trauma Center, for example, requires on-site anesthesia doctors around the clock.
Our Lady of the Lake operated a trauma center for several years in the 1980s. Opening in 1985, it received a Level II designation in 1987, but closed two years later after difficulties arose with the around-the-clock staffing, according to Advocate articles at the time.
In Louisiana, trauma centers are designated by the state Department of Health and Hospitals, after a medical center meets criteria established by the American College of Surgeons.
Currently in Louisiana, according to the College, there is a Level I Trauma Center at the LSU Interim Hospital in New Orleans, and a Level II Trauma Center at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria.
Our Lady of the Lake treats an average of 900 trauma patients every year, even without a Level 1 Trauma Center designation, according to its website, http://www.ololrmc.com.