Billings hospitals spending millions to achieve level 1 trauma status

Emily Schabacker

Ed Knight sustained a nasty cut on his arm in a fall from a ladder. When he arrived at Chippenham Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, a level I trauma center, he was met with a flurry of doctors, nurses and technicians, according to a 2021 Kaiser Health News article.

Knight, 71, ended up with 30 stitches, but his injuries were not life threatening and he went home after about three hours. His hospital bill was $52,238. Of that amount, $17,000 was attributed to the trauma activation fee, a charge applied when the hospital assembles its trauma specialists — whether the injury turns out to be a trauma or not.

A family from South Korea on vacation in San Francisco had a similarly expensive scare. The couple brought their toddler to an emergency room at a level I trauma center after he hit his head in a fall from the hotel bed. Doctors assessed the child and declared him fine apart from some bruising. After a bottle of formula and a nap, the family was sent on their way. The hospital charged them $15,666 in trauma activation fees.

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