St. Mary’s trauma center closest, most well-equipped

The St Mary’s Hospital helicopter taking off from the helipad on top of the hospital.

St.Mary’s Hospital flight crew readys the Care Flight helicopter on the helipad on top of the hospital.

St.Mary’s Hospital flight crew readys the Care Flight helicopter on the helipad on top of the hospital.



St. Mary’s Hospital operates the highest level trauma center between Denver and Salt Lake City. The remainder of the state’s trauma centers operate on the Front Range, including:

■ The Medical Center of Aurora, Aurora, Level II

■ The Children’s Hospital, Aurora, Level I Pediatric

■ Memorial Health System, Colorado Springs, Level II

■ Penrose Hospital, Colorado Springs, Level II

■ Denver Health Medical Center, Denver, Level I

■ Denver Health Medical Center, Denver, Level II Pediatric

■ Swedish Medical Center, Englewood, Level I


■ Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins, Level III

■ North Colorado Medical Center, Greeley, Level II

■ St. Anthony Central Hospital, Lakewood, Level I

■ Centura Littleton Adventist Hospital, Littleton. Level II

■ Medical Center of the Rockies, Loveland, Level II

Source: American College of Surgeons

Car wreck victims with complex injuries arrive at St. Mary’s Hospital in the worst shape imaginable, often unaware the highly trained staff rushing to help them work for the highest-level trauma center in the region.

The American College of Surgeons once again verified the medical center’s Level II trauma center, confirming St. Mary’s operates the highest level trauma center between Denver and Salt Lake City, hospital officials said.

St. Mary’s program has been continuously verified by the college of surgeons for the past 20 years, starting in 1993.

The leading causes of traumatic injuries in the region are motor vehicle accidents, falls and gunshot wounds. St. Mary’s takes care of more than 1,200 patients suffering from traumatic injuries each year, said Sarah Gahagan, St. Mary’s trauma care manager.

The center’s emergency and operating room is equipped and more than capable to care for a wide variety of trauma patients, the college of surgeons said.

The recognition was based on St. Mary’s 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week capability, including a staff of emergency specialists who utilize advanced training and surgical expertise to provide a broad scope of care, in a variety of disciplines like orthopedics, cardiology, pediatrics and neurosurgery.

“Nursing staff who care for trauma patients have completed several special training courses, including the trauma nurse core course, advanced cardiac life support and the emergency nurse pediatric course or pediatric advanced life support course,” Gahagan said.

The hospital’s trauma services are supported by a fleet of medical transport vehicles, including a helicopter, a fixed-wing aircraft and a ground ambulance.

Level II services also rely on state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging technology, blood products and intensive care and rehabilitation specialists.

“Trauma patients depend on fast action and a coordinated effort. From transport to the hospital, to assessment of injuries, surgery, post-surgical care and rehabilitation, continuity of care is very important for severely injured patients,” said Joel Schaefer, St. Mary’s trauma services medical director.

“The college of surgeons’ verification tells the people of western Colorado that we are prepared and experienced to take the best possible care of them and their loved ones.”

Trauma centers are established and designated by local, regional or state health care agencies. In Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment designates trauma centers, classified as Level I through V based on the severity of injury the facility is prepared and staffed to care for.

The American College of Surgeons’ Verification Review Committee conducts extensive reviews of hospitals’ trauma services, including a site visit, to confirm the center meets the criteria to care for seriously injured patients.

There are seven other Level II trauma centers in Colorado, all on the Front Range. There are four Level I trauma centers, two of which are pediatric.

Under state law, a Level II trauma center must provide “definitive care” for complex and severe trauma patients, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials said.

Emergency physicians and nurses must be in-house and immediately available to direct patient care and initiate resuscitation and stabilization to the trauma patient, officials said.

A surgeon must be available upon patient arrival in the emergency department and a broad range of specialists, comprehensive diagnostic capabilities and support equipment must be available, officials said.

St. Mary’s American College of Surgeons Trauma Center certificate of verification is valid until May 2016.


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