State of the Art Care Offered to Washington Workers Dealing With Amputation

Amputations are among the worst on-the-job injuries. Each year, about 25 workers in Washington suffer from amputations so serious — lost arms, hands, legs or feet — that they require ongoing specialized care. The medical care and assistance these injured workers receive are key to their physical and mental recovery.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and Harborview Medical Center announced a new agreement to provide focused help for the most traumatic on-the-job amputations. The two organizations have worked together to create a new Center of Excellence for medical care for amputees.

Harborview, part of UW Medicine, is already nationally recognized for its work with amputees. Thanks to the agreement, workers with amputations can now have their ongoing medical care managed by UW Medicine physicians and staff at the new Center of Excellence.

Traumatic amputations increase the complexity of patients’ medical needs. These cases often involve multiple types of health care providers working together.

“We want these catastrophically injured workers to know that we’re going to be there for them,” said Joel Sacks, director of L&I. “By improving the coordination of care, workers with amputations can concentrate on recovery and not feel overwhelmed with details.”

Workers will leave the hospital with a discharge plan that carefully coordinates follow-up appointments with specialists. Then the doctors and care coordinators at the new Center of Excellence will communicate with all of the worker’s health-care providers, as well as with the employer and L&I.

“The new Center of Excellence for Amputations will reinforce our touchstone role in bringing the best available trauma care to Washington’s citizens,” said Dr. Janna Friedly, director, UW Medicine Rehabilitation Amputee Program at Harborview Medical Center. “We commend Labor & Industries for leading the way on paying for care coordination.”

To streamline care for amputees insured by L&I, a group of highly-trained staff from the agency will manage catastrophic claims. They will coordinate closely with UW Medicine and with staff at hospitals where workers are initially treated.

“Losing a limb is one of the worst things that can happen to you on the job,” commented Matt Pomerinke, a mill worker who lost his arm 15 years ago. “Getting out of the hospital is just the first step on a long road — and there’s a lot to do. With this support, workers can focus on recovery with less worry.”

L&I is also improving computer systems that will make it easier to track care for serious injuries and streamline the timing of other services, such as evaluations for prosthetics.

The new center is part of an L&I project to improve care for catastrophically injured workers. L&I plans to partner with the medical community to establish additional centers of excellence for burns, head and spinal cord injuries, and multiple trauma/crush injuries.

Source: Washington Department of Labor & Industries