Southern Nevada hospitals that applied for designation as Level III trauma centers will have to start the process anew, thanks to a bill passed by Nevada lawmakers. But the advisory board previously charged with making a recommendation on whether the valley needs more Level III trauma centers isn’t giving up on its mission quite yet.
“I think the decision made by the Legislature and the governor were poorly informed and probably doesn’t help to protect our patients and our visitors,” Dr. Joseph Iser, chief of the Southern Nevada Health District told members of the Regional Trauma Advisory Board Tuesday. Iser recommended the board continue its work and make recommendations despite a new trauma selection process that bypasses the Advisory Board, which previously made recommendations to the Southern Nevada Health Board. Assembly Bill 317 puts the decision in the hands of the State Board of Health.
Iser says legislators should be held accountable for their vote on the trauma center selection process.
“There will be some people who will be competing for the Assembly and Senate districts a year from now and they should be asked this question: How did this vote protect the safety of Clark County residents and visitors? Going forward with your recommendations puts it on the record,” Iser told the Advisory Board members.
The Advisory Board, which consists of health care providers, emergency responders, hospital representatives and others, has been meeting monthly for two years.
“One of my biggest fears now is you’re up to the point now of recommending where and who,” Iser said. “Now it’s going to be delayed a couple of years. What if the state says you don’t need any more (trauma centers) and you say we do? Where does that put us if we are in conflict with the state?”
Assembly Bill 317, signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak, makes no mention of the advisory board’s role, says Dr. John Fildes, chairman of the advisory board and CEO of University Medical Center, Southern Nevada’s only public hospital and home of the state’s only Level 1 trauma unit.
“AB 317 doesn’t say we can’t make recommendations,” Fildes told the Current after Tuesday’s meeting.
Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton says the bill was designed to derail an effort by for-profit hospital corporations to profit from exorbitant “activation fees.”
Draft reports from the board indicate the most need for a Level III trauma center exists on the extreme east side of the valley. The Mike O’Callaghan Veterans Hospital at Nellis Air Force Base is seeking designation as a trauma center and would serve the public.
Another area indicating need is the “Ikea curve” of Interstate 215 near Durango and the popular store of the same name.
The median ambulance transport time in the valley for all levels of trauma increased from 15 minutes in 2013 to 16 minutes and 40 seconds in 2018, according to data compiled by the Health District.
A national standard for transport times is difficult to ascertain, Fildes told the board.