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Ohio trauma center sees summer patient surge
By Suzanne Hoholik
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After being cooped up during the long, cold winter and wet spring, people couldn't wait to get outside this summer.
That's keeping local hospitals busy.
Central Ohio trauma centers report seeing more severely injured patients this year compared with 2010, especially during the past few months.
Experts normally anticipate a surge in trauma patients from April to October — considered trauma season — but this year has been even busier.
"When it gets cold, we hibernate," said Dr. Doug Paul, trauma director at Grant Medical Center. "In warm weather, we bike, swim, jump out of trees.
"And with hot weather, people start shooting each other."
The most-common trauma injury is falls, followed by vehicle crashes and then assaults, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
Experts attribute this year's spike in part to central Ohio's population growth of about
14 percent during the past decade, but also to poor decisions.
"We're a mobile society, and people are doing the darndest things, like drinking beer, going up on the roof and deciding to cut a tree," Paul said.
Columbus has five trauma centers, and three are reporting increases.
Mount Carmel West hospital is reporting a 39 percent increase, Riverside Methodist Hospital said it has seen 9 percent more trauma patients this year, and Ohio State University has had a 6 percent increase.
The number of trauma patients so far this year is flat at Grant and down slightly at Nationwide Children's Hospital through June, but that's expected to change as the summer goes on.
"Our trauma numbers are pretty predictable ... July and August are our busiest months," said Kathy Haley, trauma-program coordinator at Children's.
Dr. Steven Steinberg, director of trauma at OSU Medical Center, said that last year was the busiest ever for his trauma center.
So far this year, he said, there's been an increase in patients coming by ambulance or private car and a 40 percent drop in those brought by helicopter.
"There's been a shift," he said. "Ambulance arrivals and EMS from scenes are up. So, despite the construction, EMS is fighting their way in here."
Ohio State is in the middle of a $1.1 billion expansion of the medical center.
Dr. Victor Dizon, trauma director at Mount Carmel West, credits his program's growth to education and outreach to EMS agencies, outlying hospitals and people in the community.
But he doesn't put much weight in focusing on increasing patient numbers.
"People put so much emphasis on volume, and volume can be a negative thing," Dizon said. "If you have too much volume, your system can't handle it.
"There needs to be a balance between volume and resources."
Copyright 2011 The Columbus Dispatch