A dispute between Florida hospitals over who should treat the most critically injured patients has hit the airwaves.
"Powerful special interests are keeping us from the emergency care we need, restricting access, risking lives," says an advertisement depicting a car crash that has begun airing in Tallahassee. Viewers are urged to call their legislators in support of "life-saving" trauma care.
The advertisement was paid for by the 60 Plus Association, a Virginia-based organization that bills itself as the conservative alternative to the AARP.
Trauma care has been the subject of legal wrangling ever since the state Department of Health allowed the HCA hospital chain to open new trauma programs around the state. This provoked a lawsuit from several existing trauma centers, mostly located in the Tampa Bay region.
Late last year, Florida's second-highest court declared invalid a 20-year-old rule used to justify new trauma programs, handing at least a temporary victory to established programs that argued they would be hurt by the loss of trauma patients. The department of health is now in the process of rewriting the rules by which trauma centers are approved.