University Medical Center Brackenridge has been redesignated as a Level I trauma center for adults by the Texas Department of State Health Services, DSHS Commissioner David Lakey announced Wednesday.
The state designation is valid for three years. UMC Brackenridge, operated by Seton Healthcare Family for Central Health, Travis County’s health care district, was originally deemed Level I in 2009 and remains Central Texas’ only comprehensive health care facility offering around-the-clock treatment for all adult medical emergencies, including digit and limb reattachment.
Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas is the region’s only Level I trauma center for pediatric patients.
Dr. Lakey, the state’s top health official, made the announcement at UMC Brackenridge during an event marking the anniversary of the 1966 UT Tower shootings. Other speakers included Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and Sr. Helen Brewer, who offered a reflection and led a moment of silence in honor of the tower shooting victims and more recent victims of a Colorado movie theater shooting.
Wednesday, Aug. 1, marked the 46th anniversary of the infamous rampage that left 32 wounded and 17 killed, including the shooter, Charles Whitman. The first victim arrived at 12:12 p.m. at Brackenridge Hospital – and victims arrived at a rate of one every two minutes during the first hour. This event led to the creation in Central Texas of the effective trauma care system we have today. It starts with local police, includes local emergency medical service personnel and leads to the emergency room doors at University Medical Center Brackenridge, Central Texas’ Level 1 trauma center for adults.
Sr. Helen, Acevedo and Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, unveiled a framed presentation of two historic artifacts: a recently discovered plaque presented later in 1966 by the Austin Police Department to Brackenridge, commending hospital staff for their exceptional response that horrific day; and a historic photo taken at the hospital the day of the shootings.
Other speakers Wednesday were Neal Spelce, legendary local newsman who reported live from campus during the 1966 UT Tower shootings; Dr. Thomas B. Coopwood, Central Health board; Dr. Paul Hinchey, medical director, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services; and Dr. Carlos Brown, UMCB Trauma medical director. Greg Hartman, president of UMCB and Seton Medical Center Austin, acted as master of ceremonies.
UMCB’s Level 1 trauma redesignation follows inspection and verification by the American College of Surgeons. In a letter to Kate Henderson, the medical center’s vice president and chief operating officer, Lakey, stated, “Your hospital is to be commended for its ongoing commitment to ensure quality care is available for trauma patients in its area. I also want to thank you and your staff for the continued leadership role you have assumed in the development of our state trauma system. Congratulations on this impressive accomplishment.”
To maintain a Level I designation, both UMC Brackenridge and Dell Children's are increasing trauma research and education activities, as well as providing special procedures such as microvascular surgery and digit and limb reattachment. Both medical centers provide 24/7 availability of specialists in neurosurgery; anesthesiology; emergency medicine; radiology; internal medicine; oral and maxillofacial surgery; and critical care.
Many emergency room cases such as heart attacks, strokes and seizures are considered critical, but not trauma. At UMC Brackenridge, the three most common causes of trauma are motor vehicle collisions, falls and motorcycle crashes. At Dell Children's, they are motor vehicle collisions, falls and blunt trauma to the head.
“This redesignation reassures Central Texans that the best trauma care, on par with any big city in the nation, is available to them locally,” Hartman said. “In addition, increasing medical research is having the direct impact of improving patient care, expanding treatment options and attracting top-level medical talent to our community.”
UMC Brackenridge had been a Level II trauma center from 1996 until 2009. “The academic world really drives things in the practice of medicine in terms of bringing about change and improving patient care," Dr. Brown said. "We are ramping up our research activities dramatically, building on Seton and Central Health investments in the Seton Brain and Spine Institute, the Seton Reconstructive Surgery Institute, the Seton Heart Institute and other lifesaving and life-improving programs.”