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Harris Methodist no longer diverting certain trauma cases

After months of turning away some emergency patients with brain and spine injuries because of a shortage of neurosurgeons, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital this week returned to a full schedule of trauma care — at least for the summer.

The hospital, designated a level 2 trauma center, until recently had only enough neurosurgeons available to treat trauma cases every other day. So ambulance crews routinely were taking victims of car wrecks and others with serious neurological injuries to the public John Peter Smith Hospital a few blocks away in the city’s Hospital District.

Deal reached: The situation could have worsened this month if several key physicians had followed through on threats to abandon Harris’ on-call rotation altogether.

Instead, administrators and doctors now have reached an agreement — which was effective Wednesday — that ensures a neurosurgeon is available around-the-clock every day.

Time and money: Dr. Tom Ellis, whose Fort Worth Brain & Spine Institute provides most of Harris’ neurosurgery trauma care, said four of the practice’s doctors and one other surgeon will take on the full schedule.

They expect to cut back on their hours at the private practice to make that happen, he said Thursday.

“We’re going to change how we structure the call and so forth,” Ellis said. “And we’ve asked for more appropriate compensation for doubling our workload and doubling our time commitment.”

Ellis said the institute’s surgeons would provide full coverage until September, but it remains to be seen whether the solution will become permanent.

“It just depends on how devastating it is going to be everybody’s private practice and personal life,” he said. “It may be doable. It may not be.”

The hospital also is continuing efforts to recruit more neurosurgeons to the staff, spokeswoman Whitney Jodry said.

About trauma care: Level 1 trauma centers, such as Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, are expected to provide care for every aspect of an injury. They’re often at university-based teaching hospitals, with a large staff and a wealth of resources.

Level 2 centers — JPS also is a Level 2 — must offer initial trauma care, regardless of an injury’s severity. But more complex cases, such as a finger that needs to be reattached, may have to be transferred elsewhere.

MARIA M. PEROTIN, 817-390-7339 METROPLEX TRAUMA CENTERS

LEVEL 1

  • Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas
  • Children’s Medical Center of Dallas
  • Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas
  • LEVEL 2

  • Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital
  • JPS Health Network, Fort Worth
  • Methodist Dallas Medical Center
  • Source: Texas Department of State Health Services

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