Letitia Stein, Times Staff Writer

Letitia Stein

Letitia Stein covers health and medical issues for the Tampa Bay Times. In her spare time, Stein also blogs about bargain shopping and fashion as a Deal Diva. She grew up in Tampa and joined the Times in 2004.

Phone: (727) 893-8330

Email: lstein@tampabay.com

Blog: Deal Divas

  1. Need for more HCA trauma centers not clear-cut


    Officials at one of the nation's largest hospital chains have made a powerful argument to defend their unprecedented expansion of Florida's trauma system:
    Hospital Corporation of America is saving lives....

  2. Debate over Florida trauma response fees moves to Tallahassee (w/video)


    The Safety Net Hospital Alliance, which represents 12 Florida trauma centers, says there are clear abuses in the way hospitals are levying "trauma response" fees, and it would support legislation to rein in overcharging.

    But Hospital Corporation of America, which a yearlong Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed to have the highest average trauma fees ever seen in Florida, is not part of that group. A relative newcomer to the Florida trauma market, it operates five of the state's 25 adult trauma centers. It charges as much as $33,000 for what is effectively a cover charge, even charging patients who are not seriously injured....

    HCA has opened a trauma center at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson.
  3. How HCA turned trauma into a money-maker


    Last year in western Pasco County, 16-year-old Mason Jwanouskos was in the backseat of a convertible when his friend lost control and crashed into a stone pillar.
    He couldn't have picked a more expensive place to get hurt....

    Mason Jwanouskos, now 17, holds the shirt he was wearing when he was hurt in a car crash that led to him being taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. With him is his father Bruce Jwanouskos and his mother Teri Jwanouskos.
  4. Hospital Corporation of America’s Regional Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson.
  5. Trauma centers miles apart, in place and price


    When it comes to the trauma response fee, patients can wind up paying tens of thousands of dollars extra based on nothing more than geography and chance.

    Consider the case of Eric Leonhard, a Fort Pierce boat captain whose rented limousine crashed in November 2012.

    Leonhard and 15 friends were blocks away from their Vero Beach destination when their driver ran a red light into the path of a Jeep. Leonhard was rushed to the closest trauma center, Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, which has some of the highest response fees in the state....

  6. How we reported on Florida trauma fees


    To examine how Florida trauma centers bill their patients, the Tampa Bay Times relied on billing data collected by state health officials from hospitals across the state.

    The databases, maintained by the Agency for Health Care Administration, include diagnosis, treatment and hospital charge information for every patient seen in an emergency room or admitted to a Florida hospital.

    The database does not identify patients by name or address....

  7. TV ads slam Tampa Bay hospitals for opposing new trauma centers


    Tampa Bay residents are being bombarded by menacing advertisements that accuse three leading hospitals of trying to "pull the plug on lifesaving care all over Florida."

    Tampa General, St. Joseph's and Bayfront hospitals are the targets of a political-style campaign spearheaded by the 60 Plus Association, a conservative advocacy group that doesn't disclose where it gets its money. But it has acknowledged spending $250,000 on its "Save Our Trauma Centers" drive, with companion ads airing in Ocala and Tallahassee....

    Ads from the 60 Plus Association say public-funded hospitals are trying to “pull the plug” on the newest trauma centers.  
  8. Tampa Bay residents show tepid support for Obamacare in new poll


    President Barack Obama's signature health care law is drawing tepid support in the Tampa Bay region, a new poll shows, with a majority of residents saying they basically like it or are at least willing to let it play out.

    But the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and AM 820 News poll also found that 35 percent of residents in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties would like to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Support among the rest was marginal....

  9. Hospitals ask courts to weigh in, again, on trauma center fight


    For three years, Florida's most prominent hospitals have been fighting over who gets the business of treating the most seriously injured patients. Now, they are gearing up for what could be a decisive final round in 2014.

    This week, several of the state's longest-operating trauma centers — including St. Joseph's Hospital and Tampa General Hospital — asked state courts to order that the new trauma centers in Pasco and Manatee counties be closed....

    Veteran hospitals like St. Joseph's contend that new hospitals are siphoning off lucrative trauma patients, threatening their ability to offset the expense of running a trauma center.
  10. HCA adds hospitals in Citrus, Pinellas and Hillsborough


    The HCA hospital chain this week won a bidding war for Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, securing its fourth new hospital this year in an ambitious expansion of its already large footprint in the Tampa Bay region.

    HCA beat out Tampa General Hospital for Citrus Memorial, one of the region's last independent hospitals. Citrus Memorial leaders voted Monday night to partner with HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, at a time of extensive consolidation in health care....

  11. Pinellas GOP calls for committeeman's resignation


    The Pinellas Republican leaders are calling for the resignation State Committeeman Dan Tucker over his insensitive remarks about a Pinellas County Commissioner's battle with cancer.

    In a statement released late on Monday afternoon, Pinellas GOP chairman Michael Guju said the party has been trying to handle the matter internally through conversations with Tucker....

  12. Tampa General joins with Florida Hospital for new ventures


    TAMPA — Saying they will be stronger as a team, leaders of Tampa General Hospital and the Florida Hospital system announced Tuesday they are joining forces to develop new health care services around the bay area.

    They didn't say exactly what those offerings might be, but emphasized that they are joining only for new ventures, not consolidating existing operations. Each side will contribute $1 million to establish a board that will figure out how they could partner. ...

    TGH president and CEO Jim Burkhart, right, and Florida Hospital president and CEO Mike Schultz talk about the partnership.
  13. Once a Diva...


    Five years ago, I had a crazy idea. What if we created a blog devoted to deals and fashion finds? An outlet for girlfriends to dish and brag about shopping scores. We'd call ourselves the Deal Divas.

    This was back in the dark days of the recession -- actually prime time for bargain hunting. Since then, I've blogged about everything from the decision to splurge on designer jeans (do it) to discovering the joy of elastic waistbands with a swelling baby bump....

    Deal Divas do lunch.
  14. HCA chain to buy three Tampa Bay hospitals


    The nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, HCA, announced Thursday it is buying three Tampa Bay hospitals — Palms of Pasadena Hospital, Memorial Hospital of Tampa and Town & Country Hospital.

    An HCA spokeswoman declined to share the purchase price for the hospitals, currently owned by IASIS Healthcare. Both HCA and IASIS are for-profits based in Tennessee. The deal should close by the year's end....

  15. Set your alarm: St. Petersburg's Sunrise Sale is Thursday


    Let's talk about three of my favorite things: Sales, shopping and comfy P.J.'s. Celebrate them all tomorrow at the 40th annual St. Petersburg Sunrise Sale.

    Yes, that's 40th annual. Because a fabulous event never goes out of fashion.

    Here's how it works: Beginning at 6:43 a.m., you can roll out of bed and hit the downtown St. Petersburg stores in your jammies. You'll find freebies galore, plus savings of up to 75 percent at beloved local stores like RoCo Traders, the Florida Craftsmen gift shop and In Search of Balance. Here's a map of participants....

    Get ready for Thursday's Sunrise Sale in downtown St. Pete.