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San Diego Trauma System Celebrates 30 Years Of Saving Lives

Evening Edition

San Diego firemen, first responders and hospital employees gathered Friday at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the San Diego Trauma System.

The coordinated trauma care system is made up of six hospitals in the county that are each equipped with an elite team of trauma specialists.

During the wildfires in the county earlier this month, coordination among first responders was key to preventing damage and saving lives. No one sustained major injuries in the fires, but that type of teamwork is the hallmark of the San Diego Trauma System, which is now regarded as a model for the rest of the nation.

At the celebration, attendees created and signed a banner to thank the firefighters and first responders for their efforts.

The six hospitals in the trauma system are Rady Children’s Hospital, Palomar Medical Center, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Scripps Mercy Hospital, Sharp Memorial Hospital and UC San Diego Medical Center. The San Diego Fire Department works with the hospitals, as does Mercy Air, which provides aerial transport for patients.

The system has helped save the lives of more than 230,000 severely injured people in the county. Melanie Gawlik, director of trauma services at Scripps Memorial, says the determination of whether or not a patient needs to go to a trauma center is based on a variety of factors.

“It’s based on the actual mechanism of injury. If you’re in a car, how fast were they going? If they fall, were they on blood thinners? So there’s a lot of criteria that goes in place before you are taken to a trauma center,” Gawlik says.

The most critically injured patients are transported to the nearest trauma center by a Mercy Air helicopter. The trip takes an average of 15 minutes.

“Ever since we started this trauma system, they actually say you have a better chance of surviving an injury here in this county than anywhere in the United States,” Gawlik said.

The mortality rates for San Diego trauma patients have been cut in half, from 21 percent to 10 percent, since the program started in 1984.

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