Q: I heard that Maui Memorial is seeking to become a Verified Level II Trauma Center. What does that mean?
Jeffrey Later, Trauma Care Program Manager, Maui Health: As a verified trauma center, a hospital is equipped to care for patients who have severe, life-threatening injuries. As the only acute care hospital on the island, Maui Memorial Medical Center is already a trauma center with a Level III designation since 2013. However, this new Level II verification by the American College of Surgeons will elevate our program to ensure traumatic injury patients can receive the highest level of care right here on Maui.
There are five levels of trauma centers recognized by the American College of Surgeons, with Level I providing the highest level of care. The Level I verification is reserved for hospitals that are aligned with medical schools that are actively doing research, and a Level II, which is the highest verification available for a community hospital, is what Maui Health is working to achieve.
According to the American College of Surgeons, a Level II trauma center “is able to initiate definitive care for all injured patients.” The hospital must provide 24-hour immediate coverage by general surgeons, as well as specialties including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care. The hospital is required to provide injury prevention to the community, work collaboratively with other agencies and provide continuing education programs for staff and have a comprehensive quality improvement program in place.
We have already started the process of becoming a Level II trauma center and have established a new 24/7 trauma team of four surgeons. That means there will always be a surgeon on call who is dedicated exclusively to trauma patients. We have also cut our maximum response time for full trauma activation in half, from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. And we are in the process of hiring additional care providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants to further complement our trauma care team.
We have only started this journey to a Level II trauma center and expect it will take at least two years to ensure all the vital components and programs are in place and sustainable to receive our well-earned verification.
Q: How long does immunity to COVID-19 last?
Michael Shea, MD, Intensivist and Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: Scientists are still studying how long people are protected after being infected with COVID-19 or after being vaccinated, but the news is encouraging. Recent studies have found that people do develop long-lasting immunity after exposure to the virus or vaccine.
The studies looked at people who had been infected with COVID-19 a year earlier. They found that these people still had cells in their bone marrow that recognized the virus 12 months later. This means that their immune system is able to produce more antibodies to fight COVID-19 — potentially for many years, and possibly for their entire lifetime.
There are also encouraging signs that people who were vaccinated will also have long-term immunity, although they may need booster shots — this is still being determined.
Even if you’ve been infected with COVID-19, it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated, as the studies found this seems to produce an even stronger immunity. The vaccine could also increase your protection against new COVID variants.
The bottom line is we are still learning about how COVID-19 immunity works, but these new studies are very encouraging. Not only do they show that people who have had COVID-19 will likely be protected for a long time, they also confirm that it’s a good idea for everybody, including people who were previously infected, to get the vaccine.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.