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Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Celebrates 75 Years

Feature Article

Level II Trauma Center Earned as Good Samaritan Grows

Oregon’s trauma system was just four years old when Bobbie O’Connell, RN, took over as a trauma program manager at Good Samaritan Hospital in 1997. At that time the hospital was a level III trauma center that saw just 61 patients annually. In just three years, the hospital was treating more than 100 trauma patients a year.

“We had grown 10% or 11% per year,” said O’Connell.

In 2000, the state of Oregon asked Good Samaritan to begin the accreditation process to upgrade to the next step, as a level II trauma center. This meant a commitment for a robust staff that included on call board certified general surgeon, neurosurgeon and anesthesiologist.

“Then CEO Larry Mullins was very much behind that,” said O’Connell, who spearheaded a three-year campaign to educate providers and obtain the equipment needed for the treatment of severely injured patients with complex trauma.

Mullins had started a wave of changes at Samaritan after taking over in 1992. One of these included bolstering the cardiac service line, which is a pillar in trauma care. Through his decades in health care, Mullins knew that to improve skills, a hospital needed to handle more of those particular cases.

“I realized we could become a level II trauma center if we knew our stuff,” said Mullins.  “We chose the heart program approach first, because to go to the level II side, we knew we’d create more heart type cases, and we needed to have the capability to take care of them.”

“That’s just a truism of medicine,” Mullins said. “If you’re doing more cases more frequently, and you do them right, you get better outcomes on the procedures.”

The pieces quickly came together, such as trauma education for providers and an advanced quality improvement program, which not only improved processes in the emergency department but overall care throughout the hospital by measuring care from intake in the Emergency Department to the trauma patient’s discharge.

“By 2003, we’d come a really long way and I think we were up to almost 200 trauma patients a year,” said O’Connell. “We were growing as a system. We brought in additional orthopedic resources, open heart resources – we were growing to be a regional hospital.”

When Good Samaritan earned the level II rating, it became the third in the state. The only other trauma centers with the same ranking were St. Charles Medical Center in Bend and Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene.

A team of surgeons at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

Requirements of a Level II Trauma Center includes 24/7 availability of general surgeons, as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.

Benefits of this change were seen immediately throughout the greater Benton, Lincoln and Linn county communities as more patients were able to stay closer to home instead of being transferred out of the area.

“We used to transfer 50% of our patients out when I first started,” said O’Connell. “This is better for our patients, for their families, because it’s a traumatic event. You don’t want to have to send families away from their support system if you don’t really need to.”

As the area’s occupations and demographics changed, so did the trauma injuries that the medical center serviced.  

“Back then, we had considerably more industrial accidents than we do now, especially from the logging areas,” said O’Connell. “We don’t see nearly as much of that anymore. Now there are the fall injuries, like the elderly fall injuries from roofs that they really shouldn’t be up.”

Another benefit with the level II trauma center is providing education to Samaritan Health Services’ resident program.

“Our program is required to have a certain level of trauma in order to have residents certified in the program,” said O’Connell.

Mullins pointed out the ripple effect created by the trauma center.

“Every program’s techniques improved, our overall game improved,” said Mullins. “If you have a heart program, you know you’re going to have to have a good cath lab program. You know, you’re going to have to have a good critical care unit.”

Now Good Samaritan’s level II trauma center sees 600 trauma patients a year. Of these, only 5% need to be transferred to a level I trauma center for a higher level of care.

Oregon now has five Level II Trauma Centers including Good Sam in Corvallis and the original medical centers in Bend, and Eugene. In addition, there are now Level II trauma centers in Medford and Salem. The state also has two Level 1 trauma centers in the Portland area.

An open house in 2009 let visitors see the heliport pad and air ambulance helicopter up close.

A REACH Helicopter crew gives tours during opening of the West Wing in 2009. Helicopter service has provided quick access for trauma patients including those involved in industrial accidents and motor vehicle collisions.

Watch for more articles about Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center as we celebrate 75 years of service to the mid-Willamette Valley and central Oregon coast.