Erlanger officials present trauma center plans at Rotary Club

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 5/16/18

Erlanger’s proposed Level IV trauma center will not one’s idea of the usual run-of-the-mill emergency room.

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Erlanger officials present trauma center plans at Rotary Club

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Erlanger Health System's proposed Level IV trauma center will go beyond the traditional image of an emergency room, according to a presentation made Tuesday to Cleveland Rotarians.

During the civic club's weekly luncheon, Robert M. Brooks, executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer at Erlanger Health System, suggested that the proposed freestanding trauma center will exceed emergency room standards.

The freestanding facility will also offer a bevy of services routinely offered in a hospital-based emergency room, he said. In addition, Brooks said that Erlanger is the only healthcare provider that can offer services to those who cannot pay for medical services.

Brooks said the trauma center will have imaging technology, a cardiac catheter lab, lab and pharmacy services, a helipad, and onsite EMS support.

In addition to the above services listed above, the trauma center, which will be located near exit 20 in north Cleveland, will also offer standard care services.

“The trauma center will also have 12 exam rooms and will be staffed with 50 full-time and part-time staff,” Brooks said. “There will also be observation beds.”

The 24-hour facility will also be certified to treat adults and children. In addition, according to an EHS press release, the new trauma center will be the only Level IV facility of its kind in the Bradley and Polk county region.

Brooks showed photos and artist’s renderings of recently constructed structures that reflected Erlanger’s commitment to building facilities that are non-conventional architecturally, as well as pleasing aesthetically.

“Our new facilities look like hotels and no longer resemble brick hospital buildings of the past,” Brooks said.

During his presentation, Brooks displayed a photograph of a recently constructed facility that featured stonework and large glass paneled windows that looked inviting and lacked the cold, forbidding architectural standards that were utilized in years past.

Brooks stressed that the need for a trauma center in Cleveland was of vital importance to the health of citizens in the region and added that the closure of Copper Basin Medical Center has adversely affected residents in Polk County.

“The health status of local residents is worrying,” Brooks said. “We have noticed that more and more are coming to Chattanooga for emergency services, and the trend has gotten worse that last two years.”

Brooks mentioned that although Tennova-Cleveland also has plans to construct a trauma center, the financial health of its parent company should be questioned. Tennova-Cleveland has also applied for a certificate of need to also obtain permission to build a trauma center here.

Brooks stressed that Erlanger was the better choice.

“Their (Tennova’s) parent company is highly leveraged, Brooks said. “That is concerning to us. However, our goal is not to impact Tennova but to offer a choice to people who live here.”

Brooks remarked that EHS also offers financial benefits to area residents.

“Erlanger is the lowest cost health provider in the region. Our costs are 10 to 15 percent less than our competitors, and those are cost savings for patients, as well as their employers,” Brooks said.

Brooks reiterated concern for the lack of proximity residents have to a local trauma center. In addition, he noted that focus on indigent care in the region has decreased.

“The closure of trauma centers in Polk County is causing unnecessary travel to Erlanger in Chattanooga. We want to be able to medically treat those residents in Cleveland,” Brooks said. “Not only will there be less visits to the Chattanooga emergency room, but the trauma center will also enable us to increase indigent care in the area.”

Brooks also said that Erlanger’s financial good health, which he noted has improved during the past several years, would enable the healthcare provider to focus on caring for indigent patients.

“We don’t turn anyone away if they don’t have insurance or cannot pay. And we are the only provider in the area who will always do that,” Brooks said.

He remarked that Tennova could not match the type of care Erlanger would provide, which is reflected in the number of indigent Bradley and Polk county residents who travel to Erlanger’s Chattanooga emergency room.

“Tennova’s indigent care has decreased and Erlanger (in Chattanooga) is providing more charity care more miles away,” Brooks said.

Brooks said a local Erlanger trauma facility could successfully address that issue.

According to a press release issued by EHS, president and chief executive officer Kevin Spiegel also stressed the importance of a local trauma care facility and that it would not only benefit residents of Bradley and Polk counties, but also Erlanger medical center employees who live in the region.

“Our goal is to serve those needing medical care closer to home, including the hundreds of Erlanger employees and their families who live and contribute to the economy in Bradley and Polk counties,“ Spiegel said. “We also want to enable Bradley County Emergency Medical Services to reduce the number of transports to Chattanooga and Erlanger for medical needs that could and should be treated locally.”

During his presentation, Brooks echoed Spiegel’s remarks by stating that 350 Erlanger employees reside in Bradley County.

While Erlanger and Tennova jockey for position as the best choice as healthcare provider for the region, the ultimate decision rests with the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency, which will hold a hearing and render its decision on June 27. The decision will allow the selected provider to build the facility. Both have filed requests within the last several months.

The approval process typically embarks on a circuitous path throughout the agency.

In a story published previously in the Cleveland Daily Banner, Melanie Hill, executive director of the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency, said the process takes roughly 120 days from the filing to the final decision. Typically, the first 30 days will consist of administrative work when the applications are reviewed.

“If the application is deemed complete that month, meaning they have responded to all of the questions, then the application goes to the reviewing agency,” Hill said to the Cleveland Daily Banner in March.

After approximately 60 days, the application is returned by the reviewing agency. Then it is reviewed by an 11-member board who will ultimately make the decision to approve the COD. According to Hill, the agency will make its decision based on whether the facility is needed, whether it will meet quality standards and its orderly development of health care.

“In a situation like this, where you have two applications that are asking for very similar services in the same area, then we treat them as simultaneous review applications,” Hill said. “That means the agency will hear the presentation by one applicant and hear any support or opposition from the community. They will then hear the same regarding the next application. They will ask questions of both applicants. Each applicant will provide a brief summary and closing. The agency will then make a decision.”

Both providers have the option to have the hearing conducted locally, but it is not immediately known if such a request has been submitted.

Hill told the Cleveland Daily Banner that the process can result in both applications gaining approval, but such an occurrence is unusual.

“I won’t say it happens frequently,” Hill said.

The next meeting of the Rotary Club will be at noon Wednesday, May 23, at the Museum Center, where representatives from Tennova-Cleveland will make a presentation discussing their plans to build a similar freestanding trauma center in Cleveland.

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