Officials from Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and Natividad Medical Center indicated they are still interested in competing for designation as a Level II trauma center, though they requested a six-month delay in the review process that will push the start date into 2015.
An interim civil grand jury report issued Thursday called for continuing the process of designating a local trauma center with no further delays. The report recommended Monterey County pursue a Level III trauma center, which provides a lower level of care, if both Salinas hospitals withdraw their intention to go after Level II status.
The report was a follow-up to the 2007 grand jury's investigation into the matter, and this year's grand jury recommended the 2013 and 2014 grand juries continue to monitor progress.
Kirk Schmidt, director of county emergency medical services, praised the grand jury for a thorough report. He said the county's new trauma care plan calls for establishing a local trauma center, and that remains the objective.
Schmidt said if a Level II trauma center isn't possible, the county Board of Supervisors could order a new pursuit of a Level III designation. While Level II is preferred and believed to be achievable, Schmidt said, simply attaining a local trauma center would be a major step.
"Designating a trauma center of any level is elevating trauma care," he said. "In the end, development of trauma centers in Monterey County is the goal.
A Level II trauma center must provide round-the-clock access to essential medical specialists, including trauma surgeons, as well as trained staff and equipment, though some specialists may be on call. A Level III trauma center may not have full access to specialists, but is required to be capable of providing access to emergency resuscitation, surgery and intensive care for most trauma patients.
Schmidt said the county is on schedule to resume the trauma center designation process in January. Schmidt said the previous schedule, which called for designating a trauma center by the end of 2014, was delayed by about six months when Salinas Valley and Natividad requested an extension while they were in merger discussions last summer.
The deadline for submitting a letter of intent and proposal fee is Feb. 8. Formal proposals would be due Aug. 16, an independent panel would review them in September and a hospital would be chosen by Oct. 1.
After that, the chosen facility would have about a year to get ready by making sure its trauma surgeons and other specialists are available to meet regulations, training personnel and ensuring equipment is in place and operational.
Formal designation of a Level II trauma center is set for Dec. 5, 2014, with a start-up date of Jan. 5, 2015.
Jim Johnson can be reached at 753-6753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.