Columbia St. Mary's stripped of trauma designation
Change could affect where EMT patients are transported

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

August 24, 2017

 Columbia St. Mary’s Mequon and Milwaukee campuses have lost their designation as certified trauma level facilities with the state of Wisconsin.
Conley News Service

MEQUON — In the event of an emergency medical situation, residents of Ozaukee County have two hospitals to choose from. But since mid-2017, only one of them remains certified as a trauma-level facility with the state of Wisconsin.

“Columbia St. Mary’s in Mequon was notified it lost its designation as a trauma-level facility,” confirmed Jennifer Miller, spokesperson with the Office of the Secretary, Department of Health Services for the state of Wisconsin.

According to the Department of Health Services, Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee lost its designation due to non-documentation of performance improvement processes and providing incomplete data to the trauma registry.

Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee campus also lost its designation for the same reasons. CSM is part of the St. Louis-based Ascension health care system.

According to a statement from an Ascension Wisconsin spokeswoman, the change does not affect the exceptional care that is given to all patients.

“Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital is a licensed hospital with an active emergency department that provides high-quality care to acutely ill or injured patients and will continue to provide emergency care to all patients arriving by ambulance,” according to the statement. “As we work with the state to resolve the classification status, we will continue to provide all our patients with personalized, compassionate care, with special attention to those who are most vulnerable.”

Until this year, both the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton and the Ozaukee Campus of Columbia St. Mary’s were designated Level III trauma care facilities. This level of certification is for facilities that can provide assessment, resuscitation, stabilization and emergency surgery. Level III centers also arrange transfers to Level I and II centers for surgical and intensive care.

Miller noted that the designation change does not affect the existing care provided through a facility’s emergency services department.

“Patients can still be treated at the hospital, including the emergency department,” she said. “The designation informs EMS on where they should transport a patient based on the type of care the patient needs.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 124 of the state’s 126 hospitals maintain trauma care facility certifications. Nine percent of those hospitals are Level I or II certified, which provides the highest levels of trauma care. The closest Level I trauma care facilities to Ozaukee County are Froedtert Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

“Emergency Medical Services consider this designation when transporting patients based on the type of treatment that is needed,” said Miller. “They may choose to transport to another location (with the loss of this designation).”

This certification change has not yet had much of an effect on local EMS services. According to Cedarburg Fire Chief Jeff Vahsholtz, the department was not aware of the change at Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Campus.

“About 98 percent of the time, it’s the patient’s choice as to where we transport them from a call,” he noted. “We transport to Aurora in Grafton, Columbia St. Mary’s in Mequon, out to Memonomee Falls and even to Froedtert and Children’s Hospital.”

In a trauma situation, geography dictates where a patient is taken, said Vahsholtz.

“If we’re working with a life-threatening issue, we really try to transport to the closest facility,” he noted. “If we are on the south side of Cedarburg, for example, we will transport to Columbia St. Mary’s.”

Miller said that while it is uncommon for a designated trauma facility to lose its designation, both Columbia St. Mary’s campuses can apply for recertification in a year.