VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY)– The Level I trauma program at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital treated a record 541 patients for gunshot wounds in 2022 and 69 of those patients died. 

“This morning after 7 a.m., we had another gunshot wound come in and died here despite all of our efforts to try and save him. It’s unfortunate, but we’re all used to it 7 days a week 365,” said Dr. Collins, the chief of trauma at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and professor of surgery at EVMS. He’s worked at this hospital since 2002 and says it’s a dramatic shift.

It’s a heartbreaking trend, especially in the midst of major staffing shortages in healthcare.

“We don’t have enough doctors, we don’t have enough nurses, we don’t have enough PA nurse practitioners, pharmacists. I think all hospitals could use more help so the taxes an already stressed system,” Collins added.

To help the staff, there’s another team at the hospital helping to slow down this uptick in violence.

Angela Parker is a team coordinator of the Foresight Violence Intervention Program.

The program connects victims and their families to trauma resources.

“We get involved as soon as possible it could be in the emergency department in the waiting room with the family who’s anxiously waiting to get the word about their family member. It could be bedside with the victim in the emergency department,” said Parker.

The program was established with a federal Justice Department grant administered by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. About half the patients approached agreed to participate.

“We’re looking at generational trauma and generational poverty, and we all know violence is a symptom of something much larger,” explained Parker.

While the program is on the reactive side of things, they’re working towards also taking a proactive approach.

“We’re looking at the prevention piece to it where we can go into schools.”

Meanwhile, Collins says he’ll keep doing his part to resolve a problem that will take the entire community to solve.

“I’ll always make some kind of comment be safe out there, be smart out there. I don’t try to preach to them. I don’t know what happens outside, I just try to remind them you are lucky this time but next time you might not be so lucky,” stated Collins.

Dr. Collins says in January they treated 50 gunshot victims. At this pace, that would set them at 600 over a year, but he says he hopes that doesn’t happen. Other Sentara hospitals treating gunshot wounds saw slight reductions last year.

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