Orlando Health expanding trauma center

Orlando Health has kicked off a $10 million fundraising campaign to upgrade and more than double the size of ORMC’s level 1 trauma center in downtown Orlando.

“On multiple Friday and Saturday nights, I’ve had the trauma bay full from just one carload of people,” said Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, medical director of ORMC Trauma Center. “It doesn’t take Pulse or a bus turnover [to fill the trauma bay]. It’s a busy area and the population is rapidly growing.”

When the hospital’s trauma bay was designed 25 years ago, its patient volume hovered at about 1,000 per year. That number has increased to more than 5,000 trauma patients annually.

Contrary to common belief, “the trauma bay is not just for trauma,” said Ibrahim. “We actually use it for heart attack and stroke victims and patients who have overwhelming infections and are critically ill.”

The Pulse mass shooting further highlighted the need for expansion, Ibrahim said.

The plans include adding more beds to the trauma bay; upgrading the original emergency department space; securing the ambulance bay; and overhauling and upgrading the Clinical Education Center, which is used for meetings and conferences.

ORMC houses Central Florida’s only level 1 trauma center, with the ability to care for severe injuries, ailments and burns.

The expansion includes the trauma bay and the emergency department that are housed next to each other. Most of the expansion is taking place on the trauma side.

The hospital is planning to knock down a few walls and enclose the nearby hall and storage space to open up the space. It’s planning to add one to three trauma beds to the existing six.

The bigger space will better accommodate the staff and allow for the addition of new equipment, some of which the trauma side is currently sharing with the emergency department.

“The expanded trauma bay will also provide significant surge space, allowing us to rapidly add 10 more treatment areas in a mass casualty situation,” hospital officials wrote in the preliminary plans they shared with some donors in April.

Today, the level 1 trauma center ranks better than most other centers in Florida and the nation, according to a recent analysis by the Leapfrog Group that was done for and reported by USA Today.

ORMC’s level 1 trauma center is the only one in Florida to get an A grade. It ranks fifth among 34 level 1 trauma centers in the nation that got an A grade from Leapfrog, according to data published by USA Today.

But the center is still in need of upgrades, particularly on the ER side, officials wrote the donors.

In 2015, the hospital added 18,000 square feet and 17 new rooms to its existing 50-room ER. Now the hospital is planning to upgrade equipment, technology, fixtures and finishes of the older part, which dates back to 1995.

Meanwhile, parts of the expansion design are guided by lessons from the Pulse tragedy.

The hospital is making the ambulance bay more private by installing an “adjustable, or perhaps, removable industrial grade curtain, which would eliminate the view of patients being unloaded and brought into the Trauma Bay (even if the camera attempting to take the image is mounted on a helicopter — as some were during the Pulse shooting),” hospital officials wrote in their plans.

Another part of the plans involves a meeting space that’s used for clinical education and conferences by inside and outside groups.

“A significant amount of capital is needed to completely overhaul and upgrade the technology that is so desperately needed for an area that is one of the most used in all of Orlando Health,” officials wrote.

The hospital will begin construction once donations reach the $5 million mark. Officials did not offer a prediction on when that might be.

The hospital received more than $1 million in cash donations after the Pulse tragedy. That money has been used to purchase and upgrade the equipment for the trauma and Air Care teams, officials said.

“We used a small portion of the money to upgrade the rest areas where emergency and trauma team members can go to step away from the chaotic moments,” said hospital spokeswoman Kena Lewis, in an email. “The rest of the money will go towards helping to fund this expansion.”

Since the Pulse tragedy, the trauma center has also hired two trauma surgeons, bringing its total to nine.

“[The expansion] allows us to do much more, more efficiently,” said Ibrahim, who trained at ORMC a decade ago and returned five years later to eventually became the trauma center’s medical director. “I’m overjoyed.”

nmiller@orlandosentinel.com, 407-420-5158, @naseemmiller