In an emergency, should a sick or injured child be taken to the nearest Emergency Department, or to a pediatric Emergency Department that may be farther away?
In any life-threatening emergency always call 911 immediately. The 911-system dispatcher will direct you to the best place for appropriate emergency care in your area. In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, most major trauma victims under age 14 will be brought to the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland.
A child who’s not in immediate danger from a life-threatening illness or injury may be directed to take an ambulance to a hospital. In this case, paramedics may ask your preference for a hospital that’s reasonably near by. Keep in mind that children's medical needs are very different from those of adults. Children respond differently than adults to trauma and serious illness.
Children require special tests and equipment for diagnosis and treatment. They are at greater risk for serious breathing problems, less tolerant of blood loss and more vulnerable to head injury. The younger the child, the smaller the margin for error. Treating pediatric emergencies requires the specialized knowledge and experience that’s found at a children’s hospital.
Where does trauma rank as a cause of disability and death in children?
Trauma is the leading cause of death for children older than 1. In the United States, more than 22,000 children die of trauma-related injuries each year. This is six times the number of deaths caused by childhood cancers, the next leading cause. About 100,000 children are permanently disabled by their injuries every year.
According to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, between 8,000 and 12,000 deaths each year could be prevented if children received faster specialized pediatric trauma care and better injury prevention efforts were in place. However, in many parts of the country, paramedics and Emergency Department staff lack appropriate training in pediatric emergency medicine.
How can I help meet the need for pediatric emergency services in my community?
Encourage your university hospital or major medical center to establish a pediatric emergency department or separate pediatric area within the main Emergency Department staffed by physicians trained in pediatric emergency medicine.
Ask your nearest hospital emergency department (ED) or ED of your choice for a list of pediatricians and pediatric specialists who are available on call. Ask whether they have an Emergency Medicine Services for Children (EMS-C) designation or approval within your county or state (granted by the EMS system providing pre-hospital or ambulance service to your area).
Pediatric Critical Care Centers (PCCC) are the highest official EMS-C designation and connote excellence in all areas of pediatric care, from emergency care through intensive care through rehabilitative care. Children’s Hospital Oakland is the only PCCC in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.