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Members of UPMC’s Trauma Services team pose on rooftop helicopter pad at UPMC Williamsport.

Williamsport, Pa. – The "Golden Hour" is a concept known in medicine that describes the first hour after a person has experienced severe traumatic injury from a crash, accident, or other incident.

"Studies show that patients who survive trauma do better if they receive care within that first hour," said Ronen Elefant, MD, medical director and trauma surgeon, Trauma Services, UPMC in North Central Pa.

It's the most critical time, and delayed care leads to poorer outcomes. This, he said, is why having an accredited Level II Trauma Center when you or a loved one is most in need is vital to survival. 

Until now, a vast region in northcentral Pa. was considered a Trauma Center "desert," meaning there was not sufficient access to that level of care within the golden hour. 

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Circled in red is the "desert" for Level II trauma care that existed before UPMC Williamsport's accreditation. Now, this region of northcentral Pa. will have access to higher level care, according to UPMC officals.

This week, UPMC Williamsport announced Level II Trauma Center accreditation by the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation (PTSF), that will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2021.

“As a Level II Trauma Center, UPMC Williamsport is prepared to treat patients with serious life-threatening and disabling injuries,” said Dr. Elefant said.

“This accreditation validates the years of work and progress made by our physicians and staff," he said. The hospital and staff have been working for four years for this achievement.

UPMC Williamsport is the sixth accredited UPMC Trauma Center in the Commonwealth, and one of just three trauma centers in the 12-county region of northcentral Pa. Two other Level II Trauma Centers include Geisinger in Danville and Guthrie in Sayre, Pa. 

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Exterior of UPMC Williamsport, 700 High St., Williamsport.

The most common causes of injury that bring patients to a trauma center are falls, motor vehicle crashes, burns, and gunshot wounds. These events cause life-threatening trauma in multiple areas of the body.

Providing high-level trauma care requires a team approach involving departments throughout the hospital that offer 24-hour services to severely injured patients. "On call orthopaedic and neurosurgeons, specially trained and board certified in trauma care are available at any time," said Elefant.

In addition to neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons, certified cardiac surgeons, radiologists, nurses, and support staff all have specialized training and expertise in treating traumatic injuries. 

Earning accreditation

The PTSF grants accreditation to Pennsylvania trauma centers at four levels. EMS protocols dictate that the most seriously ill patients get transported to a Level I or II trauma center.

"The whole process began with a letter of intent from UPMC," said Starlett Bixby, Trauma Program manager. "In 2017 we started the online application, an intense, 3-month process," she said. 

The budding Trauma Program had to get commitments from every department within the hospital to dedicate staff, expertise, and efforts into providing all documentation necessary for the application process.

"That included details on patient care, policies and procedures, data, and more to show the PTSF that we were worthy," Bixby said. 

What a local Level II Trauma Center means for the region

The result is "amazing trauma, ER, paramedic, and critical care teams right here in Williamsport 24/7,” said Steve Johnson, president, UPMC in North Central Pa. Enhanced surgery outcomes, rapid critical care treatments, and real-time cooridnation with Level I trauma experts within the UPMC network are now life-saving benefits to the community. 

In addition to having a trauma surgeon in the hospital 24 hours a day, an operating room (OR) readiness team is on standby around the clock. UPMC Williamsport’s trauma OR is dedicated solely to trauma patients and is equipped with the most advanced tools for delivering high-quality emergency care the moment it is needed.

Trauma experts from UPMC also provide community education and outreach through accident awareness and prevention programs such as Stop the Bleed and SLIP - Senior Lifestyle Injury Prevention as well as car seat and helmet checks, and distracted driving events.

“Medical emergencies and accidents can happen to anyone, and time is of the essence for treatment so there are significant benefits to having access to such high-level care close to home,” said Jason Fink, president & CEO, Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, speaking from experience of a recent trauma.

"After being hit by a car while on my bicycle earlier this year, my kneecap was shattered, a traumatic injury requiring specialty care," Fink explained. 

In the past, Fink would have had to leave the area for this level of care. He lives within biking distance of UPMC Williamsport, and was treated locally.

"My surgeon and physical therapy team were exceptional and had me up walking and back to running and biking quicker than I thought possible. UPMC is bringing access to this advanced, life-saving care right here when it’s needed most and that’s exciting for our community.”


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