Legislature looks to allow more trauma centers

Another day at the state Legislature and another proposed bill pitting hospitals against each other.

The News Service of Florida reports that SB 746 filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, would eliminate the caps on the number of trauma centers statewide.

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.

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Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center, says most trauma surgeons would be opposed to lifting caps on the number of trauma centers in the state.

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.

St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 5, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach is one of two Trauma Centers in Palm Beach County.

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.

Palm Beach County is hardly immune to trauma drama.

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.

Is there a mental health crisis at Florida’s state universities?

State universities are overrun with students seeking mental health counseling, unable to meet the growing demand.

As a result, according to a Tampa Bay Times story, students struggling with depression or other mental illness must wait for weeks, even a month, before being seen.

Ten of Florida’s 12 state universities fail to meet recommended staffing levels for counselors, the newspaper reported. Student counseling clients have jumped nearly 50 percent in a six-year period.

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State universities are overrun with students seeking mental health counseling, unable to meet the growing demand.

Ten of Florida’s 12 state universities fail to meet recommended staffing levels for counselors.

In Florida, over a six-year period, student counseling clients have jumped nearly 50 percent.

The Florida Legislature rejected a request to provide more mental health money for universities. This year the state university system is asking for $14.5 million to hire 137 new staffers for counseling centers.

University of South Florida psychology professor Jonathan Rottenberg told the newspaper that if nothing is done “we’re going to have something of a lost generation.”

“We know that the number of counselors we need per student is way off at every university,” Norman Tripp, a member of the state’s higher education board and a leader of the charge told the Times.

“We know for a fact that students who need immediate service are told that they have to come back three or four weeks later. We know that when they should be providing a one-hour service, they’re getting a half hour.”

The college years are notorious for mental health issues as students for the first time face a new environment and academic and social stress. Mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, can emerge for the first time during the college years.

Some experts worry that without a serious commitment to collegiate mental health, many students will face serious long-term harm.

“If we do nothing,” said USF psychology professor Jonathan Rottenberg, “we’re going to have something of a lost generation.”

The Times reported that potential new mental health counselors could be on their way. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton could get potentially 13 new staffers.

To read the whole Tampa Bay Times story click here.