By Justin Matthews & Andreea Ioana Pantor
(With contributions by Dr. David Kaufman, MD)
If, while reading this, you develop persistent pain in your chest, neck, jaw, arm, or back, you have to make a critical, possibly life-saving decision: Do you call 911 or do you walk or cab over to an urgent care facility?
If you call 911, the ambulance driver will ask you, “What’s wrong?” When you say that you have sharp pains in your chest, he will take you to a Trauma I Emergency Center because you could have a blockage in the main artery feeding blood to your heart and that artery has to be opened because you may have only minutes to live.
WestView offers you a simplified version of the trauma levels, as well as the distinction between Emergency and Urgent Care Centers, to help you decide.
The American Trauma Society defines five trauma levels:
• Level I Trauma Centers offer the highest level of care, with the widest range of treatment and medical specialties (e.g., cardiac surgery and hemodialysis). They provide care for every aspect of an injury.
• Level II Trauma Centers provide a similar range of services as Level I Centers, but with a less extensive range of medical specialists. Level II Centers may refer patients to Level I Centers.
• Level III Trauma Centers provide prompt care and stabilization to injured patients, emergency operations, and 24-hour coverage by physicians.
• Level IV and Level V Trauma Centers specialize in diagnostic care and the treatment of less severe ailments through evaluation, stabilization, surgery (if available), and 24-hour laboratory coverage. They also prepare patients for transfer to higher-level facilities.
Therefore, by definition, Lenox Health Greenwich Village (LHGV) is, at best, the lowest tier Emergency Center, at Level IV or V. By ignoring the Trauma Level designations, LHGV makes it appear as though the facility can handle all levels of medical conditions, as if it were a Level I, II, or III Emergency Center, while in fact none of those services are available.
Mount Sinai Hospital also conveniently omits the Trauma Level designations. Instead, they simply state that Emergency Centers treat conditions permanently impairing or endangering life, while Urgent Care Centers treat conditions that require care within 24 hours.
Some of the medical conditions associated with each type of care center are listed below.
Emergency Conditions (Level I, II, III Emergency Centers):
- Severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Compound fractures (e.g., bones protruding skin)
- Convulsions, seizures, or loss of consciousness
- Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding
- Deep knife wounds or gunshot wounds
- Moderate to severe burns
- Serious head, neck, or back injuries
- Severe abdominal pain
Urgent Care Conditions (Level IV, V Emergency Centers and Urgent Care Centers):
- Accidents and falls
- Sprains and strains
- Moderate back problems
- Breathing difficulties (e.g., mild to moderate asthma)
- Bleeding/cuts that require stitches
- Eye irritation and redness
- Fever or flu
- Vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration
- Severe sore throat or cough
- Minor broken bones and fractures (e.g., fingers; toes)
- Skin rashes and infections