“We are pleased with the progress underway and the work of our physician-led steering committee to create a safe and deliberate transition plan,” Ballad officials said in a statement. “We agree transitioning HVMC first is what’s best for patient care. Further reinforcing this decision, recent staffing changes among our trauma surgeons at HVMC have made it imperative that we stick to the Oct. 1 time frame. We are working to ensure we have the necessary trauma physician and team coverage in place at HVMC in the meantime to reinforce patient safety.”
Bristol Regional Medical Center’s Level II trauma center is expected to transition to Level III in 2021.
“We want to reassure community members that all emergency rooms in Sullivan County are open and will remain open,” Ballad Health spokeswoman Teresa Hicks said in an email. “Holston Valley and Bristol Regional will continue to provide trauma care going forward and will be well equipped to address any type of medical emergency. Anyone with a medical emergency should always go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.”
Johnson City Medical Center will continue to serve as the region’s Level I trauma center and is “already the busiest trauma center in our region, treating more than 60 percent of the region’s trauma cases and a majority of our high severity cases,” according to Ballad officials. Renovations to the Johnson City Medical Center emergency department are anticipated to begin this summer and be completed by late spring 2020.
“For most cases, the coverage provided at our three trauma centers will not change — Johnson City Medical Center, Holston Valley Medical Center and Bristol Regional Medical Center will continue to provide full general surgical, orthopedic and neurosurgery coverage for trauma,” Ballad officials said. “The Ballad Health service region does not support the number of specialists needed to maintain two Level I and a Level II trauma center, and we have had challenges maintaining sufficient physician coverage for a number of years.”
Ballad officials noted the term “trauma” applies only to medical emergencies that involve an injury.
“Coverage for other serious medical emergencies such as heart attack and stroke is not affected by changes to the trauma system,” Ballad officials said. “Holston Valley and Bristol Regional will continue to offer highly specialized heart procedures, orthopedics and neurosurgery. ... This decision impacts far less than 1 percent of emergency cases in our region — only the most serious trauma injuries — which will be treated at Johnson City Medical Center. While ‘major trauma’ cases will be transported to JCMC, most cases will continue to be served in the trauma center closest to the patient. Both Level III trauma centers will retain key trauma program elements, including trauma program manager, trauma medical director, trauma nurses, and trauma clinics for follow-up care after an injury.”
The announcement of Ballad’s proposed changes to the trauma centers in Kingsport and Bristol has been opposed by a group who have been protesting daily outside Holston Valley since May.