Desert Regional Medical Center Achieves Level I Trauma Designation

Mar 21, 2023

Palm Springs, Calif. -- Desert Regional Medical Center has been officially designated a Level I Trauma Center by the Riverside County EMS Agency, becoming the first hospital to achieve this milestone in the Coachella Valley.

Desert Regional was first designated a Trauma Center in 1980 and has been receiving patients from a wide geography – from the San Gorgonio pass to the Arizona border and beyond. With this new designation, Desert Regional becomes one of three Level I Trauma Centers in Riverside County. According to the American Trauma Society, a Level I Trauma Center is a facility that can provide total care for nearly every aspect of injury—from prevention through rehabilitation. Previously the hospital held a Level II designation.

“Reaching this highest-level designation is an exciting moment for our hospital team and for all the communities we serve,” said Dr. Paul Wisniewski, DO, medical director of trauma services for Desert Regional Medical Center and Desert Care Network. “We have been raising the level of care for many years. Now we have added clinical research and physician training programs that will be important to meeting the health care needs of the future.”

Trauma standards have evolved as the system of trauma centers has grown. To advance to the Level I designation, Desert Regional added new teaching and academic research programs aimed toward advancing innovation in trauma care. This year, Desert Regional launched a new General Surgery Residency as part of its Graduate Medical Education programs. The hospital expects its first slate of six residents to arrive in June.

“It’s been a two-to-three-year project to get us to the point of meeting all of the requirements,” said Heidi Anderson, RN, Trauma Program Manager. She credits collaborative work by the hospital’s administrative team, trauma team, medical staff leadership, and the Riverside County EMS Agency. “The county has put a lot of time and energy into growing the trauma system to meet the needs of the people here,” Anderson said.

Over the past three years, Desert Care Network has been advancing trauma care at each of its three hospitals. Both JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio and Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree are now Level IV Trauma Centers.

“With Desert Regional’s designation as a Level I Trauma Center, we are proud to serve as a unified network of trauma care for our desert communities,” said Michele Finney, CEO of Desert Regional and Desert Care Network. “Our focus in trauma has been on access and excellence—expanding access to the most vulnerable communities with a continued focus on providing excellent care.”

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