Blount Memorial Hospital Emergency Room

Blount Memorial Hospital will soon be losing its certification as a trauma center in the state of Tennessee.

Blount Memorial Hospital will soon be losing its certification as a trauma center in the state of Tennessee, hospital officials have confirmed.

A hospital spokesperson confirmed BMH received a notice from state officials on Thursday stating the hospital did not meet all requirements of its current Level III Trauma Center designation.

Being designated a trauma center is a voluntary process in Tennessee.

In a statement emailed to The Daily Times on Friday, hospital CEO Don Heinemann said the hospital has been a Level III Trauma Center since 1990.

Citing increased costs to maintain that designation with increasing standards, and the low number of Level III trauma patients treated annually, the hospital has chosen to let its certification lapse, Heinemann said.

“The number of hospitals with this designation has been declining as a direct result of the state’s ever-increasing regulatory and cost requirements to maintain certification,” Heinemann said. “In fact, Blount Memorial Hospital is now the only remaining Level III Trauma Center in the state.

“Based on the fact that we spend approximately $160,000 annually to maintain our certification, and only serve an average of 10-15 Level III trauma patients each year, we have been considering relinquishing our certification for some time.”

Heinemann said state officials surveyed the hospital in December to renew certification. The hospital did not meet all new requirements to remain a trauma center, he said.

“As we anticipated, we did not meet all of the new requirements,” Heinemann said.

The hospital has an opportunity to respond in a bid to renew its certification, but will not do so, Heinemann said.

“We have concluded that any benefit that may result from our recertification would not offset our cost,” Heinemann said. “Consequently, we have decided to move forward with the voluntary relinquishment of our certification, which will enable us to reallocate these resources towards continued improvements in our emergency department that treats approximately 55,000 citizens of Blount County each year.”

Trauma Center Levels

Trauma center certification in Tennessee is a voluntary process, according to state Department of Health documents.

“It is meant to identify those hospitals that make a commitment to provide a given level of care of the acutely injured patient,” according to the trauma center chapter in the state Department of Health Division of Health Care Facilities rules.

According to that chapter, last revised in May 2013, there are three trauma center levels in the state. The University of Tennessee Medical Center is a Level I Trauma Center.

A Level III Trauma Center is defined as “a facility providing a maximum trauma care commensurate with community resources. The Level III facility generally serves communities without all the resources usually associated with Level I or II facilities.”

In addition to other differences, Level I and II facilities require certain surgical specialties not needed in a Level III facility.

A report prepared by the state Office of Health Care Facilities showed 13 hospitals in the state were certified trauma centers as of Oct. 23, 2017. Of those, six were Level I facilities. Two were Level II Trauma Centers. Five, including two granted provisional trauma center status for one year, were Level III Trauma Centers.

The Daily Times contacted the state Department of Health Thursday and again Friday requesting additional information, including what new requirements have been put in place to maintain Level III status. The department has not yet fulfilled that request.

Crime and courts reporter for The Daily Times.

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