I was looking at a news article about South Korea's trauma center shortage, and there was a story about a man with a ruptured intestine being transferred between smaller hospitals before finally reaching a trauma center. It said that those smaller ones did not have the resources to deal with serious trauma injuries. What does this mean exactly, not having enough resources?

The question refers to cases like this in general, not specifically this case.

  • 1
    Are you interested about it in general, i.e. why hospitals might not have the resources, or do you want an answer for this specific scenario?
    – Narusan
    Nov 29, 2017 at 6:06
  • 3
    What does this mean exactly, not having enough resources? -- I think this is a great question.
    – Carey Gregory
    Nov 29, 2017 at 6:11
  • In general @Narusan-sedated
    – J C
    Nov 29, 2017 at 7:14
  • I.e. when a hospital does not have enough resources to deal with serious trauma injuries, what resources don't they have, why.. etc @Narusan-sedated
    – J C
    Nov 29, 2017 at 7:16
  • This is a great question. I would hope that any answers (I only know the basics of it) would also encompass what it means to be a trauma center, level I, II or III, requirements, etc.
    – JohnP
    Nov 29, 2017 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


It could mean any number of things. First and foremost, serious trauma requires immediate surgery, and quite often surgeons with different specialties. A single patient might need a thoracic surgeon, a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon (they might need more than that but you get the idea).

In addition to the surgeons, they'll also need a surgical team, an available operating room, anesthesiology, radiology with CT capabilities, blood bank, and a bed in ICU. Most smaller hospitals aren't likely to have multiple surgeons and all the support staff and facilities immediately available. It's extremely expensive to maintain such resources 24/7, especially since they would be idle much of the time at a small hospital.

This is why trauma systems were developed in the US. These are hospitals specially designated as trauma centers. Typically, they're large, urban hospitals that have the patient volume and financial resources to be able to afford keeping such staff and facilities available. Along with the trauma centers, regulations exist that define which patients meet the criteria of being "trauma patients" and EMS will transport all such patients to the nearest trauma center rather than simply the nearest hospital.

See also my answer to this question.

  • As said in the question, the patient needed surgery to fix his intestine, could surgeons from elsewhere come to his hospital to operate? Does this happen in the US?
    – J C
    Nov 30, 2017 at 3:07
  • Also, I read that the preventable trauma death rate is 30% in South Korea, where there were no trauma centers up until a few years ago. Let's say a victim suffered severe abdominal internal bleeding from a motor vehicle collision in a country where there are zero trauma centers, what would this patient's journey be like, and why would he die compared to if he had this accident in the US for example?
    – J C
    Nov 30, 2017 at 3:10
  • @Anon No, bringing a surgeon to another hospital rarely happens in the US. The patient is transferred, not the surgeon. I don't know how to speculate on what would happen to a patient in South Korea vs. the US. I know nothing of the South Korean medical system.
    – Carey Gregory
    Nov 30, 2017 at 5:21

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