After a bill to expand trauma centers once again failed in the state Legislature earlier this year, a new legal fight is underway in Jacksonville that could affect how catastrophic injuries are dealt with throughout the state.
UF Health Jacksonville has challenged a state decision to give preliminary approval to a new trauma facility at a rival hospital, according to the News Service of Florida.
The Florida Department of Health decision last month gave what is known as “provisional” approval for a trauma center at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, according to documents filed in the case.
UF Health Jacksonville also has been in a legal battle over a state decision to allow a trauma center to open at Orange Park Medical Center in nearby Clay County.
The argument by existing trauma centers is that by opening new ones it dilutes the needed medical expertise necessary to respond to these life-threatening injuries. State law caps the number of trauma centers statewide at 44.
In Palm Beach County, there are two Level 1 trauma centers at St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center. The Health Care District of Palm Beach County runs the trauma system, though.
Jupiter Medical Center took out full-page ads in this newspaper and others and lobbied lawmakers to keep them from changing the rules on hospital expansion. From the result, it worked.
The Florida Legislature failed to pass one of Gov. Rick Scott’s pet bills that would have eliminated the certificate of need process. Under the certificate of need process, hospitals must show a significant need for the community to expand or move into specialized practice areas.
“The organization’s effort among others played a part in it not coming to a vote in the Senate,” said John Couris, the president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center.
Thus, Florida remains one of 36 states and the District of Columbia that currently limit entry or expansion of health care facilities through certificate-of-need programs. In Florida, this process extends to acute hospital beds to organ transplants to psychiatric services.
Gov. Scott and House Republicans said getting rid of the certificate of need process would open up competition and lower prices.
But Jupiter Medical Center and other critics said deregulation would actually do the opposite by benefiting big hospital chains who could dictate higher prices and undercut patient pool are that is crucial for doctors to perfect their skills.
Couris said the open letter to the community published in full-page advertisements showed the hospital’s commitment to top-notch care. He said competition is already off-the-charts when it comes to certain areas of medicine, such as heart surgery and maternity care.
“We compete every day in healthcare. South Florida is a hyper-competitive market,” he said. “We were concerned for the consumer, for access, quality and cost.”
Couris reiterated that he isn’t against the free market but when it comes to health care appropriate regulation is necessary. Certificate of need “is appropriate regulation and it works,” he said.
The Legislature also let a bill die when the session ended Friday that would have expanded the number of trauma care centers in Florida. Critics had the same worries that the measure would undercut patient pools and thus hurt performance at existing trauma care centers.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County monitored the progress of both bills.
Currently, Delray Beach Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical operate Level-1 trauma centers. Both hospitals opposed plans by JFK Medical Center in Atlantis to get into the trauma business last year.
Robin Kish of the Health Care District released a statement on the issue:
“Our position remains constant,” she said. “The Health Care District, which oversees the county’s integrated, lifesaving Trauma System, treated more than 4,000 trauma patients in 2016 and we are committed to delivering the highest quality care so traumatically-injured patients can return to their daily lives.”
This was the year that Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans in the Florida Legislature delivered on all their talk about opening up competition in health care. Like with medical marijuana legislation, it was a big failure.
One only needs to see every other billboard on Interstate 95 to realize the hospitals are in an all out war for patients in areas of heart surgery and maternity care. But Scott and House Republicans wanted to open up it even more in some very troublesome areas, critics said.
They wanted to add trauma centers across the state and to eliminate the requirement that hospitals prove community need before expanding into an area of practice.
Both bills (HB 7 and HB1077) died on Friday when the Senate refused to take them up. This is not the first time that Scott, a former health-care executive, has tried to get rid of these regulations.
This blog explored both issues during the session that also saw lawmakers fail to implement voter-mandated medical marijuana laws.
When comes to specialized hospitals programs and trauma, hospitals need as many patients as they can get so they can perfect the practice. You know, brain injury and pediatric heart surgery are not exactly easy.
Trauma centers are no different.
Scott called for getting rid of a limit of 44 trauma centers statewide. Right now, Palm Beach County has two level-one trauma centers: St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Beach Medical Center.
Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center, told The Post earlier this year that it is important to limit the number of trauma centers.
“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?”
According to Florida News Service, the judge rejected a plan by the Florida Department of Health that likely would have led to an increase in trauma centers across the state. A contingent of lawmakers are following Gov. Rick Scott’s lead in trying to inject more competition into medical care, saying it will lead to better services and lower prices.
A contingent of lawmakers are following Gov. Rick Scott’s lead in trying to inject more competition into medical care, saying it will lead to better services and lower prices despite many medical professionals saying it will actually do the opposite.
In a 70-page ruling, Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall, in a 70-page ruling, said the Health Department’s position actually turned two state laws on its head.
Five major hospitals — UF Health Jacksonville, Tampa General Hospital, Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Bayfront Health-St. Petersburg and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa —had challenged the plan. Currently, Florida caps the number of trauma centers statewide to 44 as well as the how many can operate in 19 different regions in the state.
The battle is not over. A House subcommittee on Monday approved a bill that would eliminate the limits opposed by Gov. Scott and HCA health care company.
Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA, but resigned in 1997 after the company came under fire for Medicare billing practices.
In Palm Beach County, Tenet Hospitals runs two Level 1 trauma centers at St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center.
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.
“Can you imagine coming to a center and you have traumatic brain injury and the neurosurgeons only do about 10 operations a year? he said. “Are you going to comfortable there or do you want somebody who does 1,000 operations a year?”
The hospital wars — readily apparent on practically every other billboard down the interstate — has now bled over into trauma with accusations that expansion by a competitor into the area threatens “the entire care system in our country.”
The fight pits two giants against each other: Tenet Healthcare and HCA Healthcare and puts taxpayers in the middle as the whole system is administered by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.
Currently, the county’s state-designated Level 1 trauma centers are St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center.
Trauma centers handle the most extreme cases of emergencies, such as car accidents, gunshot wounds. Life and death hang in the balance with each case that comes through the doors.
The current trauma drama stems from Tenet competitor JFK Medical Center in Atlanta filing a letter of intent with the Department of Health on Sept. 30 to upgrade its trauma care services to Level 2 that would cater only to adults.
It is a first step in formerly submitting an application next year.
In a letter sent out today by Mark Bryan and Gabrielle Finley-Hazle – the CEOs of St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center respectively – the Tenet hospitals excoriate the competitor’s plan, saying it would undercut a system in place for 25 years.
“There will be a lack of qualified trauma surgeons to cover an excess center and decrease trauma center staff proficiency,” the letter states.
In the letter addressed to its board members, the community, employees and doctors, the CEOs say that the proposal goes against the five-year plan approved and submitted to the Department of Health and the Health Care District.
The district is an independent taxing district that operates Trauma Hawk and provides a health care safety net for the county.
The letter states since JFK is only offering adult trauma services it means if a tragic event occurs involving an entire family, then parents and children will be split up.
The Post plans on interviewing all players in this trauma drama and will update this story as warranted.
Whether its heart surgery or maternity, hospitals are very aggressive in vying for patients in the county.
St. Mary’s closed down its pediatric heart surgery unit last year following criticism that is now being leveled at JFK’s trauma plan: that the program diluted the number of patients and undercut the proficiency of existing programs in South Florida.
In the letter, the Tenet hospitals point to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times into how HCA is targeting trauma for profit, charging exorbitant fees that pale in comparison to competitors.
“HCA is capitalizing on a marketplace that is unchecked by politicians or regulators. That has allowed one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains to bill injured patients record fees,” according to the March 2014 story.