Official “trauma center” designation at Natividad will help save lives

  • January 6, 2015

By Erika Mahoney, Reporter/Producer,

SALINAS, Calif. – January 5, 2015 – It’s official — Natividad Medical Center received its designation as Monterey County’s Level II Trauma Center on Monday.

Until last October, when staff began treating trauma patients to prepare for the designation, there was no trauma center between Santa Barbara and San Jose.

Trauma patients had to be flown to San Jose hospitals for treatment.

Paramedic Bryant Chen says waiting for a helicopter often meant the difference between life and death.

"It’s always a long shot," Chen said, who works for American Response Team for Monterey County. "Time is always really important."

Chen said waiting for a helicopter can take up to an hour. And doctors say after an hour, the patient’s recovery rate quickly diminishes.

That’s why Natividad Medical Center’s official designation as a Level II Trauma Center is so critical.

Now, once a patient is inside an ambulance, paramedics say they can get a patient to the hospital sooner.

At all times, two trauma nurses are on stand by, just part of Natividad’s new trauma team.

Dr. Craig Walls is the medical director of the emergency department. At one point in his career, he worked at University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center — arguably the prototype trauma center of the world, Dr. Walls said.

But according to him, Natividad has the people and the tools Shock Trauma has.

"Watching this 128-year-old hospital elevate itself to a Level II Trauma Center has been the most rewarding thing in my career so far," Dr. Walls said.

It took nearly 3 years to establish the center. Since October, the trauma team has treated more than 200 people, but it’s just the beginning.