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Hold off on new state trauma centers, panel warns

TALLAHASSEE — A committee of national experts conducting a review of Florida's trauma system has recommended a statewide moratorium on new trauma centers.

That would mean no new trauma centers in Florida until criteria is established to determine how and where new facilities should be created. Centers that have provisional status would also be prevented from obtaining full approval during the moratorium.

Surgeon General John Armstrong was sitting front and center Tuesday as the head of a team from the American College of Surgeons proposed the moratorium as one of a dozen "key recommendations."

After the meeting, Armstrong would not say whether he would support a moratorium or if it is even in his power to call for one. All of the recommendations from the independent reviewers will be considered as the state tries to move past the years-long fights between established trauma centers and hospitals applying to create new ones, Armstrong said.

"The discord has been very challenging," he said. "And my belief is that the leaders in trauma in our state will come together, set aside differences and focus on how we can have an even better trauma system."

Much of the acrimony has centered on applications for new centers, many of which have been vehemently opposed by existing facilities that argue new centers would reduce funding and overall quality of care.

The state courts invalidated the rules that had been used to approve new trauma centers, which date back to the early 1990s. The state is now in the process of establishing new criteria.

Meanwhile, hospitals continue to express interest in opening trauma centers but with varying results.

In Tampa Bay, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson and Blake Medical Center in Bradenton were given full status last week despite the ongoing legal challenges.

But in December, the state denied applications from Jackson North Medical Center in North Miami Beach and Jackson South Community Hospital in Miami.

Dr. Robert Winchell, a trauma surgeon from Maine who led the evaluation team, said the state needs to better measure how patients are being served before creating a process to establish new facilities.

The evaluation committee's full report, due in about eight weeks, will include up to 100 recommendations.

Contact Tia Mitchell at or (850) 224-7263.