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Billings Clinic moves to become first Montana Level 1 Trauma Center

Billings Clinic Trauma 1
Posted at 8:28 AM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 10:28:36-04

BILLINGS - Billings Clinic announced Thursday it is pursuing Level I Trauma Center designation, a distinction the hospital said will elevate lifesaving care in the region, create better patient outcomes and ensure 24/7 trauma care is available through a multidisciplinary team.

“This is a transformational effort that will increase the level of lifesaving trauma care for patients and families across Montana and Wyoming,” Billings Clinic CEO Scott Ellner said in a press release. “Level I is the gold standard for trauma care and aligns with Billings Clinic’s commitment to innovation in quality care, safety, education, and health care research."

"We already provide outstanding trauma services, and this will lead to even better outcomes for trauma patients. It will help rural facilities treat more patients locally, and, most importantly, it will keep people closer to home to receive this excellent standard care when they need it.”

Billings Clinic Trauma 1
Officials with Billings Clinic announced Wednesday that the hospital will seek Trauma 1 Center status to become the first Trauma 1 Center in Montana.

A Billings Clinic press release states:

In support of achieving this monumental investment in trauma care for the region, Billings Clinic Foundation is kicking off a $30 million capital campaign, the largest in Billings Clinic’s history. The Foundation has already secured $13 million in pledges from three generous supporters to start the fundraising campaign. This includes a gift of $7 million from the Philip N. Fortin Foundation, a $1 million gift from Tim and Carmen Sheehy and an anonymous $5 million gift.

“We are excited about what this means for the future of Billings and the surrounding region in helping to provide this critical trauma need while enhancing care,” said Danielle Moore, Vice President of the Fortin Foundation of Florida. “Philip would be pleased to know we are continuing his good work and taking care of Montanans through this commitment.” Philip N. Fortin was a member of the Billings Clinic (then Deaconess Medical Center) governing board in the 1970s and was a strong community advocate and leader.

Level I Trauma is a designation from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) that is given to comprehensive care facilities with a large patient capacity and the ability to treat trauma patients with greater degrees of injury severity while providing the highest level of trauma care to critically ill or injured patients. There currently are no ACS verified Level I Trauma Centers in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, or South Dakota. The closest Level I centers to Billings are in Salt Lake City (548 miles); Denver (555 miles); and Seattle (819 miles).

Trauma 1 locations
Currently, the closest Level 1 Trauma Center to Billings is Sale Lake City, 548 miles away.

Billings Clinic was designated as Montana’s first Level II Trauma Center in 1992 and already has many of the required pieces in place to become a Level I center. This includes dedicated trauma services, 24/7 multispecialty care services, immediately available operating rooms, fellowship-trained orthopedic trauma surgeons, other 24/7 surgical services, emergency heart surgery and cardiopulmonary bypass, neurosurgery for traumatic brain and spine injuries, state-of-the-art 24/7 interventional radiology for adjunct hemorrhage control in trauma, a broad affiliate network throughout a multistate region and a strong relationship with rural hospitals.

“Billings Clinic already offers the most comprehensive and highest level of trauma care in the region,” said Michael Englehart, MD, FACS, general and trauma surgeon and Billings Clinic Medical Director of Trauma Services. “Achieving Level I means that we will provide leading-edge care. The research it requires will support and enhance our ability to provide immediate evidence-based medicine."

"The comprehensive care it entails includes 24/7 in-house coverage, from admission to discharge, and from injury to recovery," Englehart continued. "The unique geography and demographics we serve mean that we have unique needs and challenges in treating trauma patients, and the infrastructure and resources of a Level I Trauma Center will help meet those needs for our entire region.”

When a serious accident happens, having the best care available no matter where you are is critical. In Montana, Wyoming, and the western Dakotas, where the miles between people and the right resources can stretch into the hundreds, that can save lives. Billings Clinic currently is the busiest trauma center in Montana and Wyoming and offers the highest level of care available in the region, but the need for trauma services continues to grow.

  • Montana has the second-worst survival ranking in the nation for trauma.
  • Billings Clinic has taken the lead on treating trauma patients across a multi-state region, experiencing a 55% increase since 2010.
  • Seriously injured patients have a 25% greater survival rate if treated at a Level I Trauma Center.

To meet the requirements of designation as a Level I Trauma Center, Billings Clinic is hosting surgical residents and recently announced Montana’s first rural surgical residency track in collaboration with the University of Arizona. The first surgical resident arrives in June. Trauma research is an essential component of a Level I Trauma Center, and internal research scientists are working with the Billings Clinic trauma team to complete and publish trauma research.

As a Level I Trauma Center, Billings Clinic will provide the care and resources to treat every type of injury, no matter how serious, at any time. It means a community-focused, integrated system of care will be available to all in need. The Trauma network will link health care facilities across the region to ensure that every step in a trauma patient’s care journey is connected.

Additional benefits of Level I include:

  • Provides leadership in prevention, training and public education to surrounding communities.
  • Provides continuing education for the trauma team members and others throughout the organization.
  • Regional care coordination.
  • Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.
  • Operates an organized teaching and research effort to help direct new innovations in trauma care.

In order to meet the needs of residents and visitors to the region, Billings Clinic Foundation’s capital campaign will provide funding to expand operating rooms, build a new state-of-the-art transfer center to reduce transport delays, build a dedicated Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) and expand the Emergency Department.

“Advancing to Level I is a goal that will serve people across our vast multi-state region. Donors will have the opportunity to join us in helping Billings Clinic continue a proud history of raising the level of expert care like they have for decades,” said Billings Clinic Foundation president Jim Duncan. “We are so grateful to the three donors that stepped up first with $13 million to kick off this important campaign.”