Remaking Rural Health: A KET Special Report

Improve Trauma Care with a Statewide Trauma Network


With a death rate from trauma in rural Kentucky twice that of urban centers, Kentucky is not fully equipped to handle trauma care across the state, a fact that might shock many Kentuckians. The goal in any trauma situation is to get a patient to the appropriate level of care as quickly as possible, but currently, valuable time is wasted because hospitals must spend time on paperwork and regulations rather than solely on the needs of the patient.

In 2011, Livingston Hospital and Healthcare Services became one of only two Level IV hospitals in the state. In a trauma system, hospitals are designated as Level I, II, III, or IV, with Level I indicating the highest level of care.

“Studies have shown that if you take a patient to a leveled hospital, they reach the higher leveled hospital sooner and the survival rates are much higher. So that’s why we wanted to become a leveled hospital—to encourage other little small hospitals to do the same,” William E. Barnes, trauma director, says.

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A fully implemented statewide trauma network would put in place protocols and coordinated responses that would enable hospitals to quickly stabilize patients and get them to a higher level of care if necessary—and to save lives. Susan Starling, CEO of Marcum and Wallace, the other Level IV hospital in the state, is deeply surprised this network does not receive more support statewide.

“When I first heard about Kentucky not having a trauma system, I didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand it. To me, it’s a no-brainer. It has to be a priority to get this network going. I think people care about it, but it’s not a priority and it’s always getting trumped by something else. You have to have that champion in there who says, 'yes, we need to make this happen'.’

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Remaking Rural Health: A KET Special Report is a KET production, Laura Krueger, producer, and is funded, in part, by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.