South Florida Hospital News
Sunday November 17, 2019
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June 2009 - Volume 5 - Issue 12

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Trauma System Saves Lives in Palm Beach County

Establishing a high-quality, efficient trauma system in Palm Beach County was a top priority for the Health Care District of Palm Beach County after voters approved the creation of the independent taxing district 20 years ago. In 1991, the District established a comprehensive trauma system, and since then, nearly 40,000 lives have been saved through the coordination of dedicated partners and agencies.

The integrated system delivers medical care by coordinating an enhanced 911 communication and dispatch system, EMS and Fire Rescue personnel, the Trauma Hawk aeromedical helicopter, the Trauma Agency and two Level II trauma centers and their rehabilitation centers. Palm Beach County’s Trauma System encompasses all the components of the federal trauma system, including legislation, a funding mechanism and system-wide quality management. It is considered a model for trauma systems in Florida.


(l-r) Flight Nurse Tom Reyes, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue; Medical Crew Supervisor Captain Glenn Jordan, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue; Ground Instructor Tim Larsen, Health Care District of Palm Beach County; and Director of Medical Transport and Aeromedical Facilities Gerald Pagano, Health Care District of Palm Beach County. Photo courtesy of John Ricksen Photography.

With Palm Beach County being the largest county by area in Florida -- 2,386 square miles -- it is critical that air transport be available to trauma victims within the "Golden Hour," the 60-minute window in which the human body can compensate for internal bleeding without treatment. After that, the chances for recovery diminish significantly. The District owns and operates two Sikorsky S76-C+ Trauma Hawk air ambulances to airlift critically-injured patients to its two trauma centers at St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center. The flight team includes at least one commercial instrument-rated pilot, a Florida-licensed registered nurse who is also a state-certified paramedic, and an additional state-certified paramedic.

Facts About Trauma
  • Trauma is the number one cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 45.
  • Many types of injuries can be traumatic, such as car crashes, burns, falls and gunshot wounds.
  • The young suffer traumatic injury more than any other age group.
  • More years of life are lost to trauma than to cancer and cardiovascular disease combined.
  • For every trauma death, there are three trauma victims left permanently disabled.
  • 30 to 60 percent of trauma deaths are preventable.

As part of this nationally-recognized system the Health Care District also oversees Palm Beach County’s Trauma Centers at St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center. These two Centers provide specialized hospital care and rehabilitation for trauma victims. The Trauma Centers also are responsible for staffing a 24-hour on-site trauma surgery team to provide surgical intervention for trauma victims. Once the patient is stabilized, he or she is continually treated by the trauma team, including critical care and rehabilitation, until being released from the Trauma Center.

In 2008, 2,911 trauma patients were transferred and treated at the two Trauma Centers in Palm Beach County. Ninety-five percent (95%) of the trauma patients who arrived at the Trauma Centers with vital signs survived, underscoring the value of providing care within the "Golden Hour." Thanks to the Trauma System, Palm Beach County has a preventable death rate of less than 1 percent.


The Trauma Hawk team and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue participate in a high school demonstration in 2008. Photo courtesy of John Ricksen Photography.

Overseeing Palm Beach County’s Trauma System is the Trauma Agency. This department of the Health Care District ensures the operational components of the Trauma System function as a cohesive unit by providing leadership, as well as administrative, legislative and financial support. The Agency also administers a system-wide quality management program to supplement the peer-review process used at the individual trauma centers. This quality assurance and improvement process includes collecting quality of service reports from the point of injury to final outcome.

The Health Care District of Palm Beach County provides health coverage for low-income residents, a nationally recognized trauma system, clinics with a dedicated nurse in more than 170 public schools, a pharmacy network, a long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, and acute care hospital services at Glades General Hospital, the county’s only public hospital. The Health Care District is in the process of constructing a new, technologically-advanced hospital to serve the Lake Okeechobee region.

For more information, visit www.hcdpbc.org.
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