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The Portsmouth Naval Hospital becomes the Navy’s first Level II trauma center 

Navy Surgeon General, Rear Adml. Darin Via address crowd at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. Dec. 12, 2023. Steve Walsh
Navy Surgeon General, Rear Adml. Darin Via address crowd at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. Dec. 12, 2023. Steve Walsh

Naval Medical Center Portsmouth officially announced Friday that it will see more serious trauma patients from the community. Navy Surgeon General, Rear Adml. Darin Via says offering up its doctors helps the surrounding area and helps the hospital’s training mission.  

“Those patients that we're able to care for here, the lives that we're able to save here, helps prepare us to be ready to protect, defend and save lives when we're out there during Navy operations forward deployed, or if we end up in a conflict.”

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital is the only Level I trauma center in Hampton Roads. Though it’s within a few miles, the Naval Hospital already sees at least a handful of patients each week, Via said.

“We know speed is the most important thing,” Via said. “Tidewater is one of those areas with tunnels and that doesn't always make that the most expeditious. Having something here, on the south side, we’ll be able to take care of those patients while still working with Sentara.”

In the 2017 Defense bill, Congress pressed the Department of Defense to become certified trauma centers. The Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune North Carolina is a Level III trauma center. Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas is the military's only Level I trauma center. 

Portsmouth had been a Level III trauma center. The hospital is the first Navy hospital to receive a Level II designation. It is now required to have certain medical teams on call at all times. It began seeing civilian patients in August after it received a provisional designation from the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Health. 

Military medical teams have less access to trauma patients after the U.S. wound down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Rear Adml. Matthew Case, commander of Naval Medical Forces Atlantic.

“We've ramped down those operations. So we have to find that skill sustainment here. They're doing that and this building is a perfect fit,” he said.

Though military trauma is significantly different, the teams at the Naval hospital have seen victims of shootings and car crashes, he said.

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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