UMC Trauma Center Closure

Kingman Regional Medical Center is no longer able to ship trauma patients to the University Medical Center Trauma Center in Las Vegas.

Until now, the UMC Trauma Center was by far the nearest Level I trauma facility to Kingman in the region.

The UMC Trauma Center closed its doors last week.

The drastic action stems from a medical malpractice insurance crisis.

"Physicians who staff the trauma center have pulled off trauma call," Rick Plummer, UMC hospital spokesman, said.

"We rely heavily on private physicians, and they've stopped taking trauma calls because of the rising medical malpractice rates."

KRMC regularly sent trauma patients to UMC.

"It's most unfortunate," Brian Turney, chief executive officer at Kingman Regional Medical Center, said.

"Obviously, the decision will have a big effect on Las Vegas and an impact on where we ship trauma patients.

"However, we still have options with St.

Joseph's and Good Samaritan hospitals in Phoenix, plus hospitals in Tucson.

"

UMC opened a Level II trauma center in its main building in September 1989.

It moved into a separate structure in January 1992 and gained Level I designation, meaning all types of trauma could be treated there, in January 1999, Plummer said.

Those designations came from the College of Surgeons and State of Nevada.

Plummer said 11,439 trauma patients were treated during 2001.

The breakdown he gave was 41 percent for motor vehicle accidents, 39 percent for blunt injuries, 11 percent for gunshot wounds and 9 percent for stab wounds.

William Hale, chief executive officer of UMC, made the decision Monday to close the trauma center after efforts failed to reach agreement for orthopedic surgeons to come to work, Plummer said.

"We have done everything within the scope of our authority to keep the trauma center open," Hale said in a press release.

"We have been told that nothing short of total reform will bring these physicians back."

The trauma center now becomes a basic emergency room.

Las Vegas trauma patients probably will be sent to San Bernardino, Calif., Plummer said.

Timing of the closure before the July 4 holiday weekend could not have been worse.

"Our biggest concern is the level of medical services available in our region, not only for residents but tourists," Plummer said.

"This weekend (the Fourth of July) alone Las Vegas is expecting 250,000 visitors."

Last week, the UMC Trauma Center held about 40 patients.

They will continue to receive care until they are well enough to go home, Plummer said.

Plummer said UMC officials have contacted other area hospitals and informed them of the closure.

Many of the trauma center physicians are members of the Clark County Medical Society, which has 900 members, according to its president, Dr.

Warren Evins.

"We had 15 carriers writing malpractice insurance policies last year and now its down to three," Evins said.

"It's hard to get coverage, and in order to get affordable coverage some procedures doctors do must be eliminated.

"Getting malpractice insurance for trauma physicians is now prohibitively expensive or not available at all."

Evins said the Clark County Medical Society has worked with state legislators, Gov.

Kenny Guinn and Clark County commissioners in recent weeks to head off closure of the Trauma Center.

But efforts failed.

"This is a major tragedy," Evins said.

"People are going to die because of it."