Recent Traffic Accidents Highlight Trauma Centers

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Megan Zandra Davis, 17, and Geddon Kennedy, 12, who were hit in Bentonville traffic remain in the Level 1 trauma center in Springfield, Missouri.

In most severe injuries, helicopters transport patients to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, since it's the closest Level 1 trauma center to Northwest Arkansas.

"If it's neurological, meaning a brain injury, you want that patient on the gurney in the hospital as soon as possible," said Michael Stewart, chief operation officer of Northwest Medical Center in Springdale.

Arkansas' only Level 1 trauma center is in Little Rock. These trauma centers have round the clock trauma surgeons.

“If an accident happens here, we have been designed and the system has been set up, to send those high level traumas to Springfield," Stewart said.

When someone is injured, first responders call the Arkansas Trauma Communications Center, which is a system that determines where the patient needs to go.

"By telling the air-evac and ambulance crew, take that patient to this facility because they have bed availability or the resources necessary," Stewart said.

In order for Northwest Arkansas to have a Level 1 trauma center, Stewart said they need to recruit more physicians and clinical specialists.

"You don't want a trauma surgeon who only does one trauma a month operating. You truly want somebody who's seeing all, doing all, and so that volume plays a key role in that," Stewart said.

Stewart said the Northwest Arkansas may not be able to support a Level 1 trauma center.

"I'm not certain we have the patient population to keep all of those clinical specialists on their A game, in addition to additional resources from a financial standpoint to make it viable to them," Stewart said.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the hospitals in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas are a Level 3. Except for Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, which is a Level 2.