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Editorial: Time to heal after trauma center debate

By   /   Monday, July 19th, 2010  /   Comments Off on Editorial: Time to heal after trauma center debate

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After a sometimes contentious fight, Ventura County has the framework for a trauma care system in place.

In recent weeks, the county Board of Supervisors approved Level II trauma centers for Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura and Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks.

That gives both the east and west counties a designated host for emergency care services.

In the western half of the county, the Board of Supervisors had to pick between the county’s own public hospital, VCMC, and St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. The politics of that choice created what amounted to a no-win situation for the Board of Supervisors, and it raised the century-old specter of competition between the east and west sides of the Santa Clara River.

But what is important about the trauma center designations in Ventura County is that they were made. With roughly 820,000 people, a large naval base, major employers such as Amgen and key entry points to Los Angeles County on highways 118, 101 and 126, it simply is inconceivable that Ventura County could operate without an effective trauma care network.

With a trauma care network, Ventura County will be much better able to cope with a major fire or earthquake, a terrorist attack or a Columbine-like domestic tragedy.

For those unfamiliar with the Level II designation, it is the second highest among five tiers recognized in the health care industry.

It means there will be medical professionals available 24/7 to deal with emergency care at the two centers — Level I centers typically have a broader range of specialists and surgeons available.

Now that the designations have been made, the hard work of building the trauma system, testing it and retesting it begins. That will mean mending fences between the St. John’s system and VCMC so that patients, not politics, come first.

It will also be important for the Ventura County trauma centers to work with their counterparts in Los Angeles, including UCLA Medical Center, the nearest Level I center, and Santa Barbara’s Cottage Health System,  to make sure there is a truly systemic response capability in case the unthinkable happens.

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