NHCH celebrates new Level III Trauma Facility designation

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A small crowd gathered to celebrate North Hawaii Community Hospital’s new Level III Trauma designation on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 12. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Kahu Billy Mitchell gave the opening pule at the North Hawaii Community Hospital celebration of their new Level III Trauma designation on Thursday afternoon. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Sen. Malama Solomon and Dr. Howard Wong, North Hawaii Community Hospital Trauma Program medical director, chief of surgery and hospital board member, were among the speakers at the celebration on Thursday, Dec. 12. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Jeffrey Castillo, North Hawaii Community Hospital Trauma Program coordinator, speaks at the celebration on Thursday. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
A small crowd gathers to celebrate North Hawaii Community Hospital’s new Level III Trauma designation on Thursday afternoon. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

For the staff, board members and patients of North Hawaii Community Hospital gathered under a tent on the center’s front lawn on Dec. 12, the celebration of their official designation as a Level III Trauma Facility by Hawaii’s Department of Health was a culmination of hard work, community support and organized effort.

In his opening blessing, Kahu Billy Mitchell, a NHCH board member, said the achievement pointed in a good direction to bring healing to families from a NHCH trauma team that has become ohana.

“I think this is the start of good things to come, “ Mitchell said. “The town, the location, the professionalism of this North Hawaii Community Hospital family not only exists, but is needed.”

According to the hospital, the Level III designation by the Department of Health’s Emergency Medical Services, and Injury Prevention Branch is a confirmation that NHCH meets standards set by the state for a Level III Trauma Facility and that it is equipped to work within the State Trauma System to assist in the care of Hawaii County residents and visitors who have sustained traumatic injuries.

The Level III designation means that NHCH offers comprehensive emergency services along with more rapid treatment of patients. In fulfilling the State Trauma System requirements, the hospital has surgeons trained in trauma available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Injured patients are assured 24-hour access to radiology, laboratory and anesthesia services in a multidisciplinary approach. NHCH must demonstrate and maintain high-quality, precise injury assessment; emergency services, stabilization, resuscitation, and patient transfer services.

During the designation celebration, Sharon Kensinger, NHCH vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer, said that having had a career path that began in Southern California in emergency and trauma nursing, she understands the importance of having a well developed trauma system.

“I witnessed firsthand the services and skills that saved lives,” she said.

She described the “Golden Hour” of medicine, the time when rapid intervention in a severe trauma can optimize survival.

“Here, Waimea is envisioned as a focal point to get at that Golden Hour,” she said.

“This is very exciting for us,” said Sherry Lauer, State Trauma Program coordinator for Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention Systems Branch for the State Department of Health. “People don’t understand how much it takes to be a designated Level III Trauma Center.”

Lauer said she was part of the team that helped evaluate the NHCH Trauma Center and met with Jeffrey Castillo, the NHCH Trauma Program coordinator. She said the designation required a commitment to quality care.

“Everybody has such a huge role in the commitment to caring for the patients,” she said. “I am very excited to say that this is the only county in the whole state that has three Level III Trauma Centers. … No matter where you are, you are going to receive trauma care.”

Both Hilo Medical Center and Kona Community Hospital are Level III Trauma Centers. Lauer said the hospital is reevaluated for the designation every three years.

“We look forward to continued success,” she said.

Sen. Malama Solomon, D-North Hawaii, who was a speaker at the event, was a passionate advocate in bringing the hospital to North Hawaii.

“It is a privilege and an honor to see projects come full circle,” she said. “Our hospital is a good example.”

She said creating important programs in the community takes perseverance and constant vigilance, and that a strong commitment to health is vital.

She said that in Hawaiian, “How are you?” translates to “How is your body?” stressing the importance of quality and comprehensive health care.

“Hawaiians believe very strongly in healing body, mind and spirit,” she said.

Dr. Howard Wong, NHCH Trauma Program medical director, the chief of surgery and a NHCH board member, said that the Level III designation was a culmination of a hard work, support from the board and others, and an organized effort.

“You are essential to care, and I commend you for your excellent care of seriously injured people,” he said to board members and Trauma Center staff in the audience.

Wong said the care starts with the response from emergency medical services, the fire department, police department, lifeguards, transport people and other first responders.

“They all are very important – they do the initial assessment,” he said. He also said the other two trauma centers in Hilo and Kona were “very helpful in our endeavors” and provided assistance.

He also commended the NHCH Trauma Program coordinator, Jeffrey Castillo.

“Jeff will be the perfect person to carry this program forward,” he said.

A solemn mood weighed on the celebration due to the death a day earlier of Loretta Fuddy, director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, who died in a plane crash off of Molokai. Solomon said she had the “privilege and honor” of confirming Fuddy and had worked with her for many years.

“She was a pusher,” Solomon said of Fuddy’s dedication to her mission.