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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida's 'trauma drama' isn't over

The next-to-last bill of the legislative session gave the green light to approving two new trauma centers in Florida, despite a current statewide moratorium on their creation.

But don’t think Florida’s “trauma drama” -- as one lawmaker called it -- is over.

State health officials on Monday released a much-anticipated report from the independent experts brought in this winter to examine the Florida trauma system amid a protracted hospital fight over who should treat the most critically injured patients.

The experts from the American College of Surgeons -- whose Florida chapter opposed the legislation rewriting the trauma rules in the waning days of the session -- reiterated their support for a moratorium on new trauma centers until tempers cool.

They also offered many specific recommendations for state health officials now rewriting the trauma approval regulations following a protracted court fight. Highlights of their suggestions:

  • Consider allowing trauma centers to operate at lower service levels than the Level I and II centers currently allowed. This could lead to a significant expansion of trauma hospitals in Florida.
  • Require all hospitals – trauma and non-trauma – to report data on every injured patient to the state.
  • Redraw the trauma map in Florida, currently divided into 19 regions, to reflect larger service areas.

The report acknowledged that trauma centers currently compete for patients and funding. This has been at the center of the fight between longstanding trauma centers and several newly opened centers operated by the for-profit HCA hospital chain.

The controversy was stoked by legislation allowing a trauma center at HCA-owned Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, which previously has failed to gain state approval. But it was a priority of legislative leaders from that area.

State health officials say they are reviewing the report and the recent legislation, which would also allow another trauma center in Central Florida, as they draft the new trauma rules. They did not say when a proposal would be ready for public review and comments.

[Last modified: Monday, May 6, 2013 5:13pm]


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