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North Oaks Trauma & Stroke Teams Offer Lifesaving Care

When John suffered a stroke last year, he was brought to North Oaks Medical Center’s emergency room for treatment.

Understandably scared and concerned, John turned to his doctors for reassurance that he would receive quality care. His doctor was able to share that John was in good hands –– not only is North Oaks a verified Level II Trauma Center, it is also a certified Primary Stroke Center.

“We’re proud to be recognized for the effort and hard work of our team,” states Tyler Brignac, North Oaks Medical Center’s trauma program manager. “We have so many who come to us, not realizing they are being seen by some of the best and most skilled professionals in the region.”

Last February, the North Oaks Trauma Center earned official verification from the American College of Surgeon’s Committee on Trauma. The Louisiana Department of Health also designated North Oaks as a Level II Trauma Center.

As one of only five trauma centers in the state and the first in the region, Brignac points out that the North Oaks Emergency Department is a busy place, with about 80,000 visits expected this year. In 2016, 1,224 were for trauma-related conditions. He adds that the department’s busiest time is Thursday through Saturday, with the busiest hour 7–8 p.m. About 220 patients per day come to the Emergency Department.

The majority of trauma patients are victims of motor vehicle crashes, falls, assaults and purposely inflicted injuries, Brignac reports.

In the two years before certification, North Oaks Trauma Center treated nearly 2,000 injured patients and was forced to transfer many out of the area to receive care.

“As a Level II Trauma Center, we are able to initiate immediate, lifesaving care for all of our injured, 24/7,” Brignac adds. “Because the first hour is so critical, we are saving the lives of patients who may have died during transfer to other facilities.”

The Level II Trauma Center offers coverage provided by 27 emergency department physicians, six trauma/critical care-trained surgeons and four midlevel providers with assistance from specialists in orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, radiology, ENT (ear, nose and throat) and ophthalmology. All of the Emergency Department nurses caring for trauma patients have Trauma Nurse Care Curriculum certification, providing indepth training and skills.

In addition, patients like John may take comfort in knowing that North Oaks Medical Center was recertified as a Primary Stroke Center in 2016 by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit health care accreditation organization. This means that the North Oaks program has been evaluated and found to be in compliance with stroke care best practices to “foster better outcomes for patients,” notes Dr. Socrates Zapata, North Oaks Stroke Program medical director.

“This means that the program meets critical elements of performance in achieving long-term success in providing prompt stroke care,” he explains.

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. And it is the fifth leading cause of death in Louisiana. Since North Oaks became a Level II Trauma Center, 194 visitors have come to the emergency room with stroke symptoms.

Stroke patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first symptoms may be treated with certain drugs that can improve their outcomes. They are also less likely to have disabilities than those who received delayed care, Zapata adds.

North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital is also stroke certified, caring for those who require extra help before they are ready to return to daily activities. The team works closely with the patient and his or her family during daily therapy sessions.