A historic event recently occurred in the East Valley — on March 24, Chandler Regional Medical Center opened its Level I Trauma Center and began to receive patients suffering the most severe injuries.

In a situation where minutes literally can mean life or death, the new trauma center and its Chandler location is a necessity. In 2012 only 42 percent of patients who were critically injured in Maricopa County arrived at a Level I Trauma Center within the “golden hour.” That statistic is even more alarming in Pinal County as the percentage drops to 10 percent. This “golden” timeframe immediately following the injury is the critical hour within which a patient’s chances of survival are the greatest at a Level I Trauma Center. And 58 percent of all trauma patients in Maricopa County did not have that opportunity.

There are 1.2 million residents in Southeast Valley communities who live outside the range of arriving within that golden hour, and risk the extra time it takes to be transported to a hospital in Central Phoenix. The Chandler Fire Department estimates that bringing patients to Chandler Regional Medical Center will save between seven and 18 minutes. Patients from Ahwatukee to San Tan Valley, Maricopa to Miami, and even parts of Mesa and Tempe, will be better served because of their proximity to the new Chandler Regional Medical Center Level 1 Trauma Center.

Patients suffering the most critical injuries, such as gunshot wounds, crush or fall injuries, motor vehicle or bicycle accidents, will be evaluated by first responders and taken to the nearest Level I Trauma Center. Chandler Regional is designated as a provisional Level I Trauma Center by the Arizona Department of Health Services, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma System, and it currently meets the criteria needed to also be a Level I Trauma Center from the American College of Surgeons. The American College of Surgeons will assess and verify the facility after 18 months of provisional status and 12 months of trauma patient data. Both designations indicate we operate 24-hour coverage by highly specialized critical care surgeons, we equip our emergency room to perform surgery on the most traumatic of injuries, and we have the capacity to care for these patients during recovery. The American College of Surgeons requires residency and research programs to be designated as Level I, and we’re excited to announce that we will have a surgical residency program with William Beaumont Army Medical Center beginning in June 2014.

Chandler Regional has a long history of anticipating and meeting the health care needs of our neighbors. Our current expansion will add 96 beds and open this fall. We will increase our capacity to care for all patients who come through our doors — trauma and otherwise. With our new designation as a Level I Trauma Center, we look forward to serving our southeast Valley residents, knowing that in the critical moment that they or a loved one needs the highest level of medical attention, we are close by and prepared.

• Tim Bricker is president and chief executive officer of Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert medical centers.

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