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Benefis working to regain designation as a Regional Trauma Center

Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls
Posted at 5:18 PM, Mar 20, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Benefis Health System in Great Falls was notified in December 2023 of a change to its status as a regional trauma center.

The hospital says it is working to regain its previous status and claims that until that happens, there will be no impact on patient services.

Benefis wouldn’t comment on camera about the change but did answer our question on the reasoning for the designation change by email saying, “The change was a result of insufficient completion of regulatory paperwork needed to maintain the organization’s status. It did not have anything to do with the quality of care we provide.”

The American College of Surgeons verifies trauma centers with a Level I, II or III designation.

Through the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, the State of Montana designates trauma centers as a Comprehensive Trauma Center (CTC), Regional Trauma Center (RTC), which is the ACS equivalent of a level 2, Area Trauma Hospital (ATH), Community Trauma Facility (CTF) or Trauma Receiving Facility (TRF).

In a December letter to Benefis, DPHHS noted deficiencies across several domains including leadership, clinical care, system integration, and registry participation which ultimately led to a Community Trauma Facility designation through November of this year.

The letter adds that if Benefis can meet certain requirements by July 1st of this year, its status will be upgraded to an Area Trauma Hospital through November. Click here to read the letter (PDF).

Among those requirements is the hiring of a trauma medical director and a trauma coordinator which the hospital says it has already met.

The hospital is confident it will become a level two - a regional trauma center - again, saying it’s scheduling a recertification visit during which it will provide the necessary documentation to regain the status.

With different site visit timelines, Benefis says ACS could verify them as Level II by late this year. Benefis expects Regional Trauma Center designation by mid-2025.

Benefis says there are no medical conditions they can no longer treat as a result of the change and will continue to offer the services of a level two center.

According to the Trauma Designation section of the Montana DPHHS website, Regional Trauma Centers can Initiate and provide definitive care for all injured patients and assist with leadership for a geographical area or in lieu of a Comprehensive Trauma Center, which includes outreach to small facilities within the same service area.

Community Trauma Facilities can provide evaluation, stabilization, diagnostic capabilities and some surgical coverage for injured patients.

The Billings Clinic is Montana’s only ACS level one or comprehensive trauma center, while St. Vincent’s Healthcare in Billings and Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula are currently Montana’s only ACS level two or regional trauma centers.