(08/25/2002)
"Frightening" is how CEO Barb Lay of Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center described the downgrading of Charleston Area Medical Center's trauma unit.

The center has been used by most rural health facilities in the region for trauma referral.

The situation is even worse than reported yesterday. CAMC's unit has been downgraded from a Level I center to a Level 3, mostly because there are not enough orthopedic surgeons to handle the high volume of cases around the clock.

About 1,000 high-risk trauma cases have been treated every year at the Charleston Center, many of them life-flighted to the center from West Virginia's rural counties.

Barb Lay said yesterday the large hospital's are now experiencing the same problems small rural hospitals have been facing. Access and timelines are worsening.

"This is a cataclysmic event," said CAMC's chief operating officer Dr. Glenn Crotty. "This is one of those defining moments in health care in our community. It is a step back."

Some trauma cases, after 8 a.m. Tuesday, will be shifted to Huntington, although they do not have Trauma Center certification, or to WVU Hospital in Morgantown, or facilities in Pittsburgh or Lexington.

Dr. Robert D'Alessandri at WVU said "We are at capacity four to six days a week."


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