By Bill Kress

Receiving the coveted designation as a Level I Trauma Center would be a major accomplishment for any hospital. But for Kendall Regional Medical Center (KRMC) this milestone is even more rewarding as it further demonstrates that KRMC is committed to the community.

 From November 2011 to May 1, KRMC, an HCA East Florida facility, was operating as a Level II Trauma Center, having treated more than 12,800 adult trauma patients. But after dedicating years of planning and significant of resources to qualify, the hospital also was certified to treat pediatric trauma patients as a Level 1 Trauma Center by the Florida Department of Health on May 1. 

“Simply stated, this is a game changer,” said Dr. Mark McKenney, medical director of KRMC South Florida Trauma Center. “The amazing medical team that we have assembled for trauma care is now able to provide comprehensive care for our most vulnerable trauma patients, the children of our community.” 

A Level I Trauma Center is a comprehensive regional resource that is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury, from prevention to rehabilitation. Trauma centers differ from emergency room care in that they must have a trauma surgeon, anesthesiologist, and operating room ready at all times. The difference between Level I and II is the formal addition of pediatric trauma services and related specialties. 

According to McKenney to go from a Level II facility to Level I may be a routine progression but it is a long journey. 

“It took us five years to obtain our verification through the American College of Surgeons, but we’re here.”

 In KRMC’s first five years as a Level II provider, they treated in excess of 10,000 trauma patients and now will be able to take care of all pediatric patients from Key West to Miami. 

One of the biggest benefits of having a trauma center nearby is that patients no longer need to be transferred if, for instance, a child needs immediate care for a traumatic injury. 

“We are making sure people don’t have to go beyond the comfort and convenience of their own community because the skill set and all the services they need are here, right now,” McKenney added. 

McKenney also noted that patients going to a non-trauma center ER, especially late at night, may have to spend precious time waiting for a surgeon to be called.

 “The opposite happens here at Kendall Regional. As a Trauma I Center, our in-house trauma surgeons are required to be here 24/7. They spend the night here. When the patient arrives, we’re standing here ready and waiting.” 

Studies show that patients achieve better outcomes when they don’t have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for a surgeon to arrive. This time savings makes a big difference, when considering what trauma surgeons call “golden hour” in treating and stabilizing trauma patients. 

“When facing a life or death situation, the prospect of losing half of that time dealing with traffic also made a strong case for establishing a trauma center here in west Miami- Dade County,” McKenney said. 

KRMC now also is considered a “transferin center,” accommodating referrals from sister hospitals in the area as well as international patients who fly in to Miami Executive Airport, Opa-locka, or Miami International Airport. 

The new-generation KRMC has grown since its founding in 1973 into a successful tertiary referral center for complex diseases and processes, including any level of severe traumatic injuries. 

Today, with the resources of HCA, KRMC has made significant investments, in the form of a new $110 million West Patient Tower, a $1.1 million dollar helipad and another on the way, a highly specialized staff that includes eight trauma surgeons, and four new more operating rooms slated to open in October. 

“We are interested in quality outcomes,” McKenney said. 

One aid to the quality of those outcomes is KRMC’s Surgical Residency Program. The program began training residents in 2014. Very few hospitals in Miami-Dade County offer residency programs. In fact, McKenney quipped, “the last time a surgical residency program was started in the Miami area was 1952, when President Truman was in office.”

 Residency programs also serve to address what hospitals call “brain-drain,’’ as it is common practice for a doctor to set up shop where he or she goes for a residency. 

Kendall Regional Medical Center is a facility of HCA East Florida, the largest healthcare system in Eastern Florida and an affiliate of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). For more information, visit Kendall Regional Medical Center is located at 11750 SW 40 St., Miami, FL 33175. For more information, call 305-223-3000.

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