From vehicle crashes to serious accidents around the home, life and the potential for catastrophic injury can both be unpredictable.
But while local residents can’t always be ready for the unexpected when it comes to their health, Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen has made those preparations so the community it serves doesn’t have to. As the Rio Grande Valley’s first Level II Trauma Center and the first and only such designated facility in Cameron County, Valley Baptist-Harlingen is prepared and equipped to handle the unpredictable.
Since it became the region’s first Level II Trauma Center in early 2018, Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen has been saving the lives of patients with traumatic injuries, providing the fast, life-saving trauma care needed close to home, said Dr. Joshua Rodriguez, emergency medicine physician and emergency services medical director at Valley Baptist-Harlingen.
“For the longest time, if a patient experienced a major trauma in the Valley, whether that was (a) bad car accident or some other severe incident, the assumption was that they would have to be transferred to San Antonio,” he said. “But now that we’ve evolved into a strong Level II trauma center, Valley Baptist provides sub-specialty services for many injuries that patients would have to be transferred out of the region for in the past. In fact, the vast majority of trauma patients no longer have to be transferred out of the Valley with the exception of major burns (more than 20% of the body) and some specialized pediatric surgical care. With very few exceptions, our hospital can take care of severe traumas here, complete a patient’s care here, and eliminate the burden of sending them away from their families and support systems.”
According to the American College of Surgeons, a facility with a Level II trauma designation can initiate ultimate care for all injured patients, offer 24-hour immediate coverage by general surgeons, provide coverage in the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, and critical care, in addition to providing trauma prevention and continuing education programs for staff, as well as incorporating a comprehensive quality assessment program. All the details add up to providing communities throughout the Valley with the highest level of trauma care available in the region.
“There have been some misconceptions in the Valley regarding the differences between a Level I and a Level II trauma center,” said Dr. Roger Galindo, trauma surgeon and trauma program medical director at Valley Baptist-Harlingen. “Truth be told, there is a fine line between the designation of a Level I and Level II trauma facility from a clinical perspective. The availability of specialty coverage is exactly the same for both trauma designations (which is great for our community), but it is the commitment to education, research, community outreach, and injury prevention that separates the two designations.”
Karen Rhodes, trauma program manager, said Valley Baptist-Harlingen was the first hospital in the region to recognize the need for and seek out advanced trauma care here locally more than five years ago and has a long standing history showing our commitment to education, research, community outreach, and injury prevention education. Being equipped to handle a wide array of trauma emergencies is what sets Valley Baptist’s trauma program apart from others in the area.
“Valley Baptist has those extra specialists on staff to manage more specific emergencies for our community,” she said. “For example, we have trauma surgeons who have been specifically trained to care for those patients, orthopedic trauma surgeons who are just outstanding in their fields, and we even have pastoral care to handle the spiritual needs of a patient and their families. They all come together to do their best to deliver outstanding care and serve our community and be prepared for whatever it needs.”
Educating local residents on how to prevent emergencies in the first place is also a critical component to operating a Level II trauma facility. Those educational efforts include supporting other hospitals and communities throughout the region in a wide variety of educational initiatives from bicycle and car seat safety to how to stem blood loss during severe accidents, Rhodes said.
“We work closely with our partner hospitals, because we are a resource to the Level III and Level IV hospitals in the region. We also provide education to our community. Falls are a prime example. We have a large senior population and falls are an issue, so we look at what is causing the falls and talk about how to prevent them,” she said. “Education is a huge part of the program, and it’s known as the injury prevention side of the trauma program.”
“We’re ready for the minor emergencies all the way up to major traumas, stroke or cardiac arrest. This is the best facility in the region and I would put it up against anyone,” Rodriguez said. “I was born at Valley Baptist, and, I even tell my own family members that they need to come here, especially when it comes to trauma and things like stroke. It is tremendously rewarding and a privilege to be serving this community. It’s important to me and our entire team that we provide our patients with the best experience and the best care.”
Valley Baptist-Harlingen has cared for the community for nearly 100 years, and is proud to have earned a reputation for delivering award-winning healthcare to generations of families throughout the region, said Dr. Galindo.
“There is a tradition here, and a sense of excellence and expertise that has been here throughout Valley Baptist’s long history,” he said. “We have medical professionals changing the level of care that has been available in the Valley, and we’re focused on the patient and constantly striving to improve patient care. We consider our patients family, and we treat them the exact same way we’d want our family members treated.”