Monday, May 21, 2018
Health

Judge blocks new trauma center at St. Petersburg's Northside Hospital

ST. PETERSBURG — Northside Hospital can't immediately move forward with plans to open a trauma center, a circuit court judge ruled late Friday.

The hospital, located at 6000 49th St. N, intended to open a specialized center for critically injured patients on May 1. But it met a legal challenge from Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, which operates its own trauma center downtown and said having a competitor just a few miles away would siphon off patients and erode quality.

In a 46-page order, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers noted that Florida law allows only two trauma centers in the "trauma service area" that encompasses Pinellas and Pasco counties. The region already has two: the one at Bayfront and another at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.

Gievers blocked Northside from pressing ahead until ongoing administrative hearings on the state trauma rules are completed.

The ruling was welcome news to Bayfront CEO Kathryn Gillette.

"The current trauma system is working well, ensuring patients have quick access to the care if they need it," Gillette said in a statement. "The expansion of trauma services without thoughtful consideration is not in the best interest of the community.''

JC Sadler, a spokeswoman for the Nashville-based chain that runs Northside, said her hospital was "disappointed" in the order and "exploring all options to assure access to trauma care in our trauma service area."

A state Department of Health spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

Trauma care has long been a hot-button issue in Florida.

Some hospitals have pushed for more trauma centers, saying increased competition would lead to better outcomes for patients. But existing operators say the proliferation of trauma centers would be bad for Florida. That's because the centers require highly skilled physicians and a high volume of patients to be sustainable.

There's big money at stake. A 2014 Tampa Bay Times investigation found that HCA, the hospital chain that runs Northside, was charging "trauma activation fees" as much as $33,000 per patient.

Health department attempts to ease the trauma center rules have met repeated legal challenges, some of which are continuing. Last week, the Florida House passed a bill that would allow more trauma centers in certain areas. The Senate has not taken action on the issue.

Bayfront, which is run by the for-profit hospital chain Community Health Systems, learned that Northside filed paperwork to open a Level 2 trauma center earlier this year. (A Level 2 trauma center covers fewer specialties than a Level 1 trauma center.)

Indeed, state health officials were planning to award Northside a provisional license to open in May, according to the judge's order.

The health department told the court it was obligated to grant the license even though there were no available slots. But Gievers said that position "ignores the plain language of the law and is erroneous."

The health department's stance, she said, "seemed unconnected to existing statutes that control Florida's trauma system . . . and more reflective of hoped for legislation" that would allow more trauma centers.

What's more, she said, Northside chief operating officer Peter Kennedy "did not seem particularly familiar with the fact that Florida trauma service providers are limited to two in the Pinellas/Pasco region."

"He seemed to be relying on statements — he did not remember who made the statements — that Northside, an HCA-affiliated provider, would be taken care of," she added.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

Comments
U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. regulators Thursday approved the first drug designed to prevent chronic migraines. The Food and Drug Administration’s action clears the monthly shot Aimovig (AIM’-oh-vig) for sale. It’s the first in a new class of long-acting dru...
Published: 05/18/18
Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day, and the American Medical Association is encouraging people to monitor their blood pressure levels and get high blood pressure, or hypertension, under control. High blood pressure, sometimes referred to as the...
Published: 05/17/18
Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Women having trouble getting pregnant sometimes try yoga, meditation or mindfulness, and some research suggests that psychological stress may affect infertility. But what about men: Does their mental state affect a couple’s ability to conceive?The la...
Published: 05/17/18
Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

TAMPA—Tampa General Hospital was named one of the top 100 hospitals in America for the fifth consecutive year, and second best in Florida, according to one health industry website.Tampa General is considered the best hospital in the Tampa area, accor...
Published: 05/16/18
Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Even though a circuit judge has ruled that Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner can grow and juice his own marijuana, he was barred from doing so until the appeals process is finished.So Redner’s lawyers filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court o...
Published: 05/15/18
Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Over the span of three weeks, Brenda Gotlen watched as her abdomen got bigger. Her lower stomach felt bloated."It got to the point that I looked nine months pregnant," said Gotlen, a 62-year-old Seffner resident. She made an appointment to see her pr...
Published: 05/15/18
Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

As some insurers angle for hefty premium hikes and concerns grow that more Americans will wind up uninsured, the federal health law is likely — once again — to play big in both parties’ strategies for the contentious 2018 election.Candidates are alre...
Published: 05/15/18
Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

When he was 14, James Harrison needed surgery. And as he would come to find out, he would also need a significant amount ofstrangers’ blood to survive it.After he had recovered and as soon as he became an adult, Harrison felt compelled to pay it forw...
Published: 05/14/18
UN health agency aims to wipe out trans fats worldwide

UN health agency aims to wipe out trans fats worldwide

NEW YORK — The World Health Organization has released a plan to help countries wipe out trans fats from the global food supply in the next five years. The United Nations agency has in the past pushed to exterminate infectious diseases, but now it’s a...
Published: 05/14/18
Troubling link found between pollution exposure in pregnancy, high blood pressure in children

Troubling link found between pollution exposure in pregnancy, high blood pressure in children

High blood pressure typically occurs in adulthood, so when children develop the condition, it often means something is very wrong. A child might have kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or a heart problem. Obesity can also be a factor.But what about seem...
Published: 05/14/18