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Dr. Carlos Cardenas, DHR Chief Administrative Officer & Chairman of the Board, speaks during the ground breaking for the UTRGV Research Building at DHR on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 in McAllen, Texas. Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is partnering with UTRGV on this new facility. UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy

Featured: Carlos Cárdenas, MD, Chairman, Board of Directors, DHR Health, a co-founder of the hospital and one of the more visible faces of DHR Health, addressing state and local leaders and other area residents on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at the DHR Health’s South Campus on East Dove Avenue in McAllen. Cárdenas was participating in the groundbreaking ceremony of the University of Texas Health Rio Grande Valley Biomedical Research Building, which held its official ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

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Level I Trauma Center to be announced by DHR Health leadership on Wednesday, May 1

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance will soon be home to the only Level 1 trauma center in the region, according to the Monitor newspaper in McAllen.

The hospital system leadership is set to publicize the advent of the service – which it identifies as “the only functioning Level 1 trauma emergency center in the region” – at a press conference on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The news media gathering will take place beginning at 10 a.m at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, located at 118 Paseo del Prado in Edinburg. For more information, or to RSVP, call 956/362-3100.

“DHR Health cordially invites you to join us for a Level I Trauma announcement,” officials stated in a notice posted by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce (https://mcallen.org/event/dhr-health-level-1-trauma-announcement/)

A Level I trauma center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury, from prevention through rehabilitation, the Monitor also reported, adding that currently, the closest Level 1 trauma center is in San Antonio. There are currently 18 in the state.

In general, a trauma center is a hospital equipped and staffed to provide care for patients suffering from major traumatic injuries such as falls, motor vehicle collisions, or gunshot wounds.

According to the American Trauma Society, elements of Level I Comprehensive Trauma Facilities include:

• 24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons, and prompt availability of care in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, and internal medicine;
• Referral resource for communities in nearby regions;
• Provides leadership in prevention, public education to surrounding communities;
• Provides continuing education of the trauma team members;
• Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program;
• Operates an organized teaching and research effort to help direct new innovations in trauma care;
• Program for substance abuse screening and patient intervention; and
• Meets minimum requirement for annual volume of severely injured patients.

(https://www.amtrauma.org/page/TraumaLevels)

DHR Health is a physician-owned health system and the only locally owned and operated hospital left in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. Anchored in southwest Edinburg, with a growing presence in neighboring McAllen, DHR Health offers some of the most comprehensive medical care on the U.S. southern border, with over 1,400 nurses and 700 physicians providing care in 70 specialties and sub-specialties.

Additionally, DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the UTRGV School of Medicine, and encompasses a general acute hospital with a 24/7 Level III Trauma Facility the only dedicated women’s hospital South of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, over 60 clinics Valleywide, advanced cancer services, and the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley, to name a few.

The news of the planned Level I trauma center at DHR Health will come less than two months after officials with UTRGV and its School of Medicine, along with its teaching affiliate DHR Health and the City of McAllen, on Wednesday, on March 13, 2019, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the landmark University of Texas Health Rio Grande Valley Biomedical Research Building.

The city donated the land, and the building – located on DHR Health’s South Campus – will be leased to UTRGV by DHR Health and DHR Real Estate Management, L.L.C.

The new facility will house faculty, staff, post-doctoral fellows, and students working in 16 different research modules, featuring researchers from the departments of Neuroscience, Human Genetics, Immunology and Microbiology, and Molecular Science. It also will be the home of the School of Medicine’s new cancer immunology institute.

Located at 5300 N. L St. (near the intersection of Jackson Road and Dove Avenue), the University of Texas Health RGV Biomedical Research Building will provide laboratory, classroom and collaborative space for investigators working in the areas of cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and other areas of research important to the Rio Grande Valley community.

The UT Health RGV Biomedical Research Building, designed by The Warren Group of McAllen and Cantú Construction of McAllen, is a 83,020 gross-square feet, two story building, with its estimated value of $32 million to $34 million.

The upcoming announcement on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 comes less than a year after DHR Health began a legislative movement to rally support for the creation of Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center(s) in the Rio Grande Valley.

Gov. Greg Abbott, in a letter addressed last fall to the Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation, promised to use his powerful influence in the Texas Legislature and elsewhere to help establish at least one Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center in one of the largest metropolitan areas of Texas.

“A Level I trauma center would strengthen the healthcare network in times of disaster, and it would also serve as a needed resource to the 1.5 million people who call the Rio Grande Valley home,” Abbott stated in his letter, dated September 26, 2018. “This is why I fully support efforts to establish this goal.”

A Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center is a wide-ranging regional resource that is a tertiary care facility central to the trauma system. A Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury.

“Having access to a Level I trauma center is a critical component of disaster response and preparedness,” Abbott further stated. “During my travels around the state, I have heard from many Texans about the importance of the trauma system and the need to strengthen it. The reasons differ as to why the network should be strengthened, but there seems to be consensus that enhancements are needed. These issues should be included in discussions as Texas prepares for further disasters.”

Carlos Cárdenas, MD, Chairman, Board of Directors, DHR Health, said the governor’s public commitment was welcomed news for what is one of the top state legislative priorities for the Valley during the ongoing regular session of the 86th Texas Legislature.

Cárdenas, Raúl Barreda, Jr., MD, Trauma Medical Director for the Level III Trauma Center at DHR Health, and Robert D. Martínez, MD, Chief Medical Officer/Chief Physician Executive, DHR Health, have been the more visible figures in the ongoing state legislative campaign for a Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center(s) for the Valley.

Martínez said DHR Health’s leadership also credits the Valley’s top elected officials for their support.

“We have one of the more powerful state legislative delegations in history that has taken on this cause, and we also are blessed to have secured the important combined political support from our county commissioners courts and growing number of city councils/city commissions in the Valley,” Martínez said.”

Martínez said the region’s state lawmakers understand the importance of upgrading the state’s trauma center capabilities.

“This issue is especially of interest to the Rio Grande Valley delegation given our location along the Gulf Coast. Of the top nine most populated regions in the state, only the Rio Grande Valley lacks a Level I trauma center,” Martínez quoted the lawmakers’ letter to the governor. “While the Rio Grande Valley was spared the worst of Hurricane Harvey, the next big storm could hit our area. We owe it to our constituents to be ready and make the necessary investments in our trauma system before disaster strikes.”

Rio Grande Valley needs a Level I comprehensive trauma center

There is no Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center in the Rio Grande Valley, which is a major metropolitan area, even though much smaller population centers in Texas have such life-saving resources, Barreda noted.

“Tyler, with a 300,000 population, has a Level I and Level II trauma center. Killeen-Temple, with a combined population of 400,000, has a Level I and Level II trauma center. Lubbock, with 300,000 residents, has a Level I and Level II trauma center, and an additional Level II center,” he said. “We (Hidalgo County) have a population of 850,000 people and are without a Level I trauma center.”

According to the most recent figures by the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 2017 – more than one year ago – the estimated population of the Rio Grande Valley was 1,370,424 (Hidalgo County: 860,661; Cameron County: 423,725; Starr County: 64,454; and Willacy County: 21,584).

Like the Houston region, the four-county Rio Grande Valley, the counties along or near the Gulf Coast north of the Valley, and north and west of Corpus Christi, each year face the real possibility of significant threats to life and property due to tropical storms, hurricanes, and other inclement weather events.

Barreda noted that the need for a Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center(s) for the Rio Grande Valley is based on high and unbiased standards set by the American College of Surgeons, a prestigious nationwide institution that, among its many duties, verifies the resources available at a hospital trauma center.

“The American College of Surgeons recommends a Level I and Level II trauma center for every million people in population. Trauma centers become verified by the American College of Surgeons to make sure they are filling out criteria, protocol, and that they save lives,” Barreda explained. “Nothing there is political, everything is merit-based. If you are good and you do a good enough job, and you have the facilities, then you earn it.”

Hurricane Harvey’s near strike to the Valley

It is the threat of weather disasters such as Hurricane Harvey that also justifies the need for a Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center(s), and not just for the benefit of the Rio Grande Valley.

“The Trauma Network identified glaring holes after Hurricane Ike (in September 2008) hit the Houston area. They said, ‘You need to do this, you need to do this, you need to do this.’ They shored everything up,” Barreda reported. “When (Hurricane) Harvey hit (in 2017), there were three Level 1 trauma centers and four Level II trauma centers in Galveston and Houston, a significant improvement from when Hurricane Ike hit the region a few years prior,” he continued.

The Trauma Network in the State of Texas is made up of 288 designated trauma hospitals, first responders, and emergency medical service providers.

The Trauma Network in the State of Texas is comprised of 22 regions and includes 18 Level I Comprehensive Trauma Centers, 21 Level II Major Trauma Centers, 56 Level III Advanced Trauma Centers, and 193 Level IV Basic Trauma Centers.

“During Hurricane Ike, the Level I trauma center at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston were flooded. The trauma network in the greater Houston area was overwhelmed and they could not care for the people that needed it done. Due to the investments made and despite the catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Harvey, the Houston trauma network was not overwhelmed,” Barreda said. “For those reasons, the American College of Surgeons and the Trauma Network is recommending these actions take place preventively before the next disaster hits, especially shoring up the Gulf Coast – the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi area. If we are hit in these areas, we are cut off from everything else, with no help.”

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For more information, please contact Roberto Haddad, Vice President and Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy at DHR Health, or Jesse Ozuna, Government Affairs Officer at DHR Health, at 956/362-7165. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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