Another day at the state Legislature and another proposed bill pitting hospitals against each other.
The bill comes on the heels of another proposed law that would get rid of the requirement that hospitals show a community need to expand or add a specialized program.
And like that bill, this one has the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott, a former healthcare executive. Scott has called for getting rid of a limit of 44 trauma centers statewide.
Proponents of more trauma centers argue getting rid of caps will result in less time needed to transport injured people for care. Critics say these facilities require highly trained medical staffs and that adding new centers will siphon patients and staff from existing trauma centers.
St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center — run by Tenet Healthcare — are Palm Beach County’s state-designated Level 1 trauma centers, handling the most extreme cases. Right now the average time to get a patient to one of these centers is eight minutes.
Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center, said it is important that trauma centers have a certain number of patients to remain proficient.
“Can you imagine coming to a center and you have traumatic brain injury and the neurosurgeons only do about 10 operations a year? Are you going to comfortable there or do you want somebody who does 1,000 operations a year?”
Hutson’s bill was introduced after an administrative law judge’s ruling last week that the state Health Department had improperly allowed Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County to open a trauma center in 2016.
Currently, regulations allocate one trauma center to a five-county region of Northeast Florida and UF Health Jacksonville was not keen on the Clay County trauma center.
Hospital competition in Florida is already at a fever pitch. A trauma center gives a hospital one more way to advertise, attract medical talent and raise its profile — not to mention it looks really nifty on a billboard.
JFK Medical Center in Atlantis filed a letter of intent with the Department of Health on Sept. 30 to establish a Level 2 trauma center that would accept only adult patients.
Tenet, to put it mildly, was not pleased, saying a JFK trauma center would undercut a system in place for 25 years.
“This action threatens the entire care system in our county,” stated the letter on the issue by Tenet.