In an Emergency

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It may come as a shock, but accidents and unintentional injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, injury accounts for more than 150,000 deaths and more than 3 million non-fatal injuries per year.

Medical emergencies happen every day, and South Texas Health System (STHS) is ready to provide nationally recognized emergency and critical care when and where you need it.

STHS is home to the South Texas Health System Trauma & Critical Care Institute, which encompasses the largest network of trauma and critical care services in the Rio Grande Valley.

“While you can’t plan for the unexpected, you can take comfort in knowing that South Texas Health System is here to provide emergency and critical care when you need us, where you need us,” said Todd Mann, chief executive officer of South Texas Health System in McAllen.

South Texas Health System consists of four acute-care facilities, six freestanding emergency departments, and a behavioral hospital, all at the ready to serve the community’s medical needs, especially in an emergency.

While all the system’s freestanding emergency departments and hospital ERs are prepared to provide round-the-clock care during medical emergencies, including a dedicated emergency room just for kids at South Texas Health System Children’s, South Texas Health System McAllen is designated a Level II Trauma Center. What exactly does that mean for the community?

In short, the Rio Grande Valley residents have access to board-certified trauma surgeons and specialists immediately available and are less likely to have to be transferred out of the region for advanced care.

Dr. Carlos Palacio, director of research for STHS’ Trauma Program and Advanced Trauma and Life Support director, has been serving the Rio Grande Valley community for four years and has been a part of connecting the Rio Grande Valley to the quality health care this area deserves without having to leave the region.

“If you are injured in a car accident, the trauma team will not only perform your surgery but will continue providing care at the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), providing critical care from the moment the patient arrives at our facility,” Palacio said.

That means that the patients are under the team’s care 24/7, and the staff understands the patient’s injuries, needs, and can provide the critical care needed for their recovery.

The STHS McAllen Trauma Department focuses on patients who have suffered severe injuries from car accidents and penetrating injuries like gunshot and stab wounds. The team provides those life-saving procedures to patients who are in critical condition.

The trauma team is made up of general surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, and critical care specialists. This sort of care right in our own backyard has ensured that our once underserved community now has the care needed to meet the desperate needs of patients with life-threatening injuries or illness.

“One thing that has changed is the ability to care for patients here,” Palacio said. “We are hiring quality physicians who are able to care for the patients right here in the Valley.”

Palacio emphasized that STHS was the first in Hidalgo County since 2018 to be designated Level II, and aside from offering this valuable care, STHS has been improving the education component by offering injury prevention courses. STHS also has organized support groups for severe trauma patients through the Trauma Survivors Network to help survivors and their families rebuild their lives after a traumatic injury.

Other education and community programs that STHS McAllen offers include Advanced Trauma Life Support Course, Stop the Bleed, Reality Education for Drivers, Mental Health First Aid Training, and others.

Since the Level II designation, STHS has reported a lower rate of transfers to facilities outside of the Rio Grande Valley. In fact, Palacio added that in the last year, only one trauma patient was sent to another facility. STHS McAllen also has one of the lowest trauma mortality rates, at 2.14%, according to their website.

“By continuing to build and grow the trauma care program, we will provide this area the level of care that we need and deserve here,” Palacio said.

So when care can’t wait, count on the South Texas Health System Trauma & Critical Care Institute.

Selene Guerrero