Kingsport should retain its Level 1 trauma center

Editorial Board • Updated Jun 11, 2018 at 3:26 PM

Does Ballad Health’s announcement of a pediatric emergency room at its Kingsport hospital signal that Kingsport will retain its Level 1 trauma center?

As a cost-saving measure (and because of the redundancy) Ballad plans to eliminate Kingsport’s or Johnson City’s trauma center. Geography and logistics argue for it to be retained at Kingsport, the center of Ballad’s service area, important to delivering critically ill patients within the so-called golden hour after the occurrence of critical illness or injury.

CEO Alan Levine told a group assembled recently at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education that Ballad is putting together rural, pediatric and behavioral plans to submit to the state of Tennessee as part of its Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) requirements. The group was invited by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, who has been conducting closeddoor meetings on school safety.

Roe told the group that a previous discussion on the issue centered on mental health issues among students and the need for local solutions. “We’ve had a complete failure of our mental health system in this country. What we’re talking about doing here today are the things we can control with our school children. I think we can be a model for the country,” Roe said.

Levine invited members to meet with consultants and Ballad’s behavioral and pediatric team, announcing that a pediatric emergency room will be built in Kingsport. That’s great news for the city and Southwest Virginia. The only existing pediatric ER in the area is Ballad’s Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City. That Ballad sees a need for pediatric emergency services in Kingsport may indicate that it sees this hospital as its primary emergency facility and will continue to provide Level 1 trauma services here.

A Level 1 is the highest designation that accepts the most critically ill patients. At present they are located in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville, and Johnson City where the former Mountain States Health Alliance located one to compete with the existing center at Kingsport. These facilities are extremely expensive to operate, and Ballad has said it will not continue two centers within 20 miles of each other.

Kingsport’s center should be maintained not only because it is dead center in Ballad’s 29-county service area, but also because of its superior facilities.

It has the largest physical plant and emergency department and has had more experience. Then too, Kingsport’s center is near the largest industrial complex in the area, Eastman Chemical Co.

As Ballad continues to consolidate and establish operating efficiencies, it is incumbent on the community, business and industry especially to make known their support for Kingsport’s trauma center.

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