MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic to create region’s first trauma network

Updated 8:06 a.m.

MetroHealth System logo, courtesy of MetroHealthCleveland Clinic logoCLEVELAND, Ohio — MetroHealth System and Cleveland Clinic Health System are creating the region’s first trauma network, which is expected to begin operating Jan. 1.

The Northern Ohio Regional Trauma Network will bring together MetroHealth’s Level 1 trauma center and four Level 2 trauma centers at Cleveland Clinic hospitals in a cooperative effort to get critically injured patients the trauma care they need.

MetroHealth’s board of trustees unanimously approved the network formation during their late afternoon meeting Wednesday.

The network will develop protocols for how adult trauma patients should be treated and where and how they should be transported. The protocols will be used to monitor network operations and best practices in trauma care will be shared among network members.

As the only Level 1 trauma center in Greater Cleveland, MetroHealth will direct the medical operations of the network and its Metro Life Flight emergency medical helicopter service will coordinate patient transport.

The network’s protocols will not supplant trauma protocols of local hospitals, said Dr. Charles Emerman, chair of the emergency medical department at MetroHealth. The Cuyahoga County EMS board does some trauma coordination in the region, Emerman said. “They have some protocols, but they don’t have the specificity of this one. And Cleveland EMS has its own protocols for where they take trauma patients and those work very well.”

However, there is some confusion among field workers, such as paramedics and physicians at the region’s hospitals about the protocols for sending patients to Level 2 or Level 1 trauma centers, he said.

MetroHealth and other hospitals have been trying to form a trauma network for 30 years. “We’ve had many, many years [of] discussions about proper regionalization of trauma, how you should get patients from the field or from smaller hospitals into regional hospitals,” Emerman said after the MetroHealth trustees’ meeting. The discussions “have always gotten hung up for one reason or the other.”

Though the network is starting off with MetroHealth and the Clinic, it is not meant to be exclusive, he said. He and his colleagues, such as Dr. Brendan Patterson, chair of the orthopedic surgery department at MetroHealth, will meet with leaders at the region’s hospitals in the next few months to try to get them on board.

“This is a major change in the way we look at public health,” Patterson told MetroHealth trustees during their meeting.

Trauma is a public health issue that puts thousands of lives at risk each year, Mark Moran, MetroHealth’s president and chief executive, said in a written statement. “It is in the public’s best interest to ensure that the community’s resources dedicated to trauma are organized and coordinated effectively to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients.”

Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Clinic, agreed. “This collaboration will allow us to optimize the quality of care and outcomes for trauma patients across the region,” Cosgrove said in the statement. “Together, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth are sharing best practices and designing a premier model for trauma care to benefit thoses in our communities.”

The network’s first medical director will be Dr. Jeffrey Claridge, a MetroHealth trauma surgeon and director of trauma research. MetroHealth and the Clinic each will contribute $300,000 per year to the network’s budget. In addition, the Clinic will contribute $2.4 million over two years to a local charitable foundation to be used by MetroHealth to deal with uncompensated medical care it provides through the network, as well as for training and research in trauma care.

MetroHealth’s Level 1 trauma center treats 4,500 adults each year, making it one of the largest in the nation. Together with the Clinic’s four Level 2 trauma centers, the network expects to coordinate care for 6,500 trauma patients per year.

In other MetroHealth business, trustees on Wednesday approved a resolution to refinance up to $135 million in existing debt as bond markets offer the right interest rates and terms. Last month, the trustees signed off on refinancing a synthetic lease for a parking deck with more than $8 million in bonds to be issued by National City Bank.

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