If you suffer serious injuries in Oakland from an auto accident or fall, you may end up at Highland Hospital, a Level II trauma center.

Although Highland is known as a public hospital that takes in patients regardless of their ability to pay, it’s also a designated trauma hospital. A trauma hospital is certified to treat the most severe and life-threatening injuries. John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek is also a Level II trauma center. For kids, Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is a Level I pediatric trauma center.

What do these levels mean? Trauma centers, which must meet criteria established by the American College of Surgeons as well as state law provisions, are rated at four different levels. Level I hospitals offer the widest range of resources. Level II trauma centers must provide 24-hour immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as specialists in orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, and critical care.

Level II centers also provide trauma prevention and continuing education programs for staff. The hospitals must incorporate a “comprehensive quality assessment program,” according to American Trauma Society. If a patient needs cardiac surgery, hemodialysis or microvascular surgery, they may get transferred to a Level I trauma center. (FYI, San Francisco General is a Level I trauma center.)

Unfortunately, trauma centers have been closing across the United States. According to an article in The Atlantic, 339 trauma centers closed between 1990 and 2005, many in areas that need them most.

We hope that you never see the inside of Highland Hospital. But if you do, know that practitioners most skilled in treating traumatic injuries are treating you.