The partnership between the two Level I adult trauma centers in our region, University Hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center, or BAMC, is unique in the nation — having saved or restored countless lives over the decades.
Together they care for those with life-threatening injuries throughout the vast, 22-county, Trauma Region P, in collaboration with the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, its member hospitals and EMS organizations.
“We are extremely lucky to have a resource like Brooke Army Medical Center here in San Antonio as a key part of our regional trauma system,” said Dr. Ronald Stewart, chair of surgery at UT Health San Antonio and trauma surgeon at University Hospital, at a news conference to release results from the 2017 Community Trauma Report.
“I’m not sure people here truly appreciate what a resource it is,” Dr. Stewart added. “The military operates a lot of hospitals across the United States and around the world. Only one of them is a Level I Trauma Center — BAMC. Only one of them routinely takes care of critically injured civilians as part of an area trauma system — BAMC.”
The decision by one or more private hospitals locally to consider seeking Level II trauma designations — which would allow them to treat critically injured patients without the investments in research and prevention that are required of Level I trauma centers – has been met with widespread concern that BAMC’s continued participation in our regional trauma system, as well as its trauma care training programs for military surgeons and other medical professionals, could be at risk.
To maintain Level I status, a trauma center must treat a high volume of trauma patients. BAMC is able to achieve this volume in part by treating civilians from within the trauma service area.
Both Bexar County Commissioners Court and San Antonio City Council passed resolutions expressing support of BAMC and its need for a sufficient volume of trauma patients to maintain the expertise of its physicians and staff and fulfill its military readiness mission.
“A threat to BAMC’s trauma mission puts in jeopardy the future of our military’s commitment to remain in San Antonio over the long term,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
The National Academies of Science recently highlighted the partnership between University Hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center in a 2016 report, noting that BAMC’s “verification as a Level I trauma center and its integration into the regional civilian trauma system enables military physicians, nurses, and medics to attain and sustain expertise in trauma care and to interact, conduct research, and collaborate with civilian trauma care providers.”
“While we are fortunate that the number of wounded troops has fallen considerably as our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed, it is clear to anyone who watches the evening news or reads a newspaper that the world is a complex and dangerous place, one in which our nation’s military might be called upon at a moment’s notice to defend our nation’s interests,” said Col. Kurt Edwards, former trauma chief at Brooke Army Medical Center. “That is why we on the medical side work so hard to maintain our skills and readiness. That’s why we have been a part of the trauma system in South Texas for decades, taking the best care possible of civilians so that we can take the best care possible of our men and women in the armed services who risk their lives to protect ours.”