Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary has become the first hospital in Northwest Indiana to be designated as a trauma center by the American College of Surgeons.
About three years ago, the state declared the hospital an "in-process" Level III trauma center, meaning that for the purposes of ambulance transport, it could be considered a trauma center while it applied for the ACS designation. Previously, trauma patients had to go to Chicago or South Bend for care.
"Injured patients have access to specialized trauma care in Northwest Indiana where they didn't as short as four years ago," said Jennifer Mullen, trauma coordinator for Methodist Northlake.
As a Level III trauma center, Methodist has surgeons available at the bedside within 30 minutes, 24-7. Patients who need a higher level of care are stabilized then transferred to Level I or II trauma centers, generally in the Chicago area.
Under a state rule, emergency responders are advised to transport patients with traumatic injuries to the nearest trauma center if it's less than 45 minutes away. The only other trauma center in Northwest Indiana (though still considered "in-process") is Franciscan Health hospital in Crown Point.
Methodist Northlake gets trauma patients from as far as Valparaiso to the east, Hammond to the west and Merrillville to the south.
"We're busier than ever," Mullen said. "The last two months we've had our busiest two months since the start of the process."
Methodist had about 110 trauma patients in each of June and July, she said, compared to roughly 65 in a typical month. Trauma cases generally spike during the summer. About 70 percent of Methodist's trauma cases are motor vehicle collisions, while the remaining 30 percent are penetrating injuries like gunshots and stab wounds.
The changes at the state level were designed to give Indiana a more robust trauma system at a time when it only had a handful of trauma centers. Unlike about half of states, however, Indiana does not provide funding to hospitals for trauma care.
Methodist is Indiana's 16th official trauma center, and the sixth Level III. The state also has six "in-process" trauma centers.
“We are proud to be the first Level III trauma center in Northwest Indiana,” stated Methodist President and CEO Ray Grady. "This was truly a team effort of doctors, nurses and staff across the organization."