I work in a health care specialty where appointments are not necessary. In fact, they're impossible. The patients we see in the trauma center at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point typically arrive by ambulance or helicopter minutes after a sudden and severe traumatic injury.
No one plans on being the victim of a life-threatening injury. Yet traumatic injuries are the fifth-leading cause of death in the nation, and the No. 1 cause of death for people younger than 44.
Chances of survival increase when victims are treated in a verified trauma center and survival chances are greatest when trauma care begins within no more than 60 minutes after the injury. In the trauma field, we call this period the "golden hour."
These are the realties that led Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point to open a trauma center in 2011 and these very same realities make it absurd that hospitals in other communities are petitioning the state to shut down the Bayonet Point trauma center.
Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg have filed a legal case and a protest with the Florida Department of Health that would shut our doors at Bayonet Point. The basis of their case is this — the need for our trauma center was certified by the state under a department rule that has since been eliminated.
Closing our doors would be an unthinkable setback to patient care and bring back the problems that our center was created to solve. Bayonet Point's trauma center is the only one in Pasco County and we also serve western Hernando. Closing it would mean going back to the days when the closest trauma units to west Pasco were 45 miles and an hour's drive away to either Tampa or St. Petersburg. Some patients even traveled to Lakeland.
Every minute saved in getting patients to a trauma center can make a critical difference. Emergency room teams can stabilize and diagnose, but they are not staffed and equipped to adequately treat trauma victims. Trauma centers are designed, equipped and staffed specifically to treat critically injured people as quickly as possible. They have a trauma surgeon on duty 24 hours a day along with other specialist physicians and nurses. When an accident victim arrives, this whole team is organized to swing into action quickly.
Opening the Bayonet Point Trauma Center was a major step ahead for health care in Pasco and Hernando counties and closing it would be a major step backward.
The community served by Bayonet Point needs to speak out now on behalf of access to local trauma care. You can do that by attending a Department of Health public workshop on the new rule for approving trauma centers at 9 a.m. today at the Hillsborough County Health Department, 1105 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Or, you can email your comments within the next two weeks to the state at [email protected]
Either way, please share your strong view that the Bayonet Point Trauma Center is a critical resource for our community
Mark Anderson is trauma services program director at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.