ACS warning: Ben Taub (Houston) gets one-year verification

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The American College of Surgeons has declined to grant full three-year verification to Ben Taub General Hospital, a Level I trauma center in Houston. In a letter to hospital leaders, the ACS cited significant concerns about the availability of operating rooms and the adequacy of surgeon staffing, according to a Houston Chronicle report. The hospital has received a one-year certificate of verification, and has until next October to create a corrective action plan.

Ben Taub is a 586-bed public hospital staffed by physicians from the Baylor College of Medicine. Last November, an ACS review team found that the hospital’s trauma program is significantly understaffed. Ben Taub has six full-time trauma surgeons, compared to the eight recommended by reviewers, according to the news report. The ACS also deemed the hospital’s 10 operating rooms inadequate for the trauma program’s volume.

The ACS classifies trauma center requirements as Type I criteria (essential) and Type II criteria (required, but less urgent).

  • Any Type I deficiency bars a hospital from ACS verification.
  • A hospital with three or fewer Type II deficiencies receives ACS verification, but only for one year. The hospital then has 12 months to correct the noted deficiencies.

Ben Taub’s Level I verification has been renewed through March 3, 2016, according to the Houston Chronicle. The hospital must provide the ACS with a summary of its corrective action plan by the first week of October. Reviewers will return to the hospital before November 6 to assess the plan.

Funding problems
Financial problems have constrained Ben Taub’s ability to provide full resources for its trauma program. The hospital is operated by Harris Health System, which faces a projected $71.8 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, according to the Houston Chronicle report. The hospital is laying off 133 staff members and will not fill 149 open positions. Recent plans to construct additional ORs have been put on hold.

If Ben Taub fails to maintain top trauma center status, it would exacerbate Houston’s public health situation. While the Houston metropolitan area includes more than 6 million people, the region has only two Level I trauma centers.