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Watered-down trauma center bill passes House

What began as a bang ended with a whimper as the House passed a diluted trauma center bill and sent it to the Senate Friday.

The measure (HB 1077), which passed 93-24, began its legislative life to do away with a cap on how many trauma centers can open in Florida.

The bill that was passed says areas with “at least 1.25 million … need at least two trauma centers,” and those with “more than 2.5 million … need at least four trauma centers,” the bill analysis says.

The state’s Department of Health “retains the authority to allocate the number of trauma centers needed in each (trauma service area), and the bill specifically authorizes (the department) to allocate additional trauma centers above the minimum need established in the bill.”

In 2004, the Legislature divided the state into trauma service areas, currently 19, and the statewide total of trauma centers is now capped at 44. There were 33 centers, including for pediatric care, as of mid-2016.

GOP state Rep. Jay Trumbull of Panama City, the bill’s sponsor, said the motivation for the bill was to end the flow of litigation against the department, which now reviews the need for new centers and approving them.

Almost every time a new application is filed, the department is hit with some kind of litigation, usually from neighboring hospitals that already operate a trauma center.

Those in favor of the measure, including hospitals that want to open new centers, say the growing number of Florida’s residents and visitors justifies the need for more centers.

Opponents, generally those already operating trauma centers, said opening more centers would put a strain on the availability of trauma surgeons and would dilute the pool of patients.

 

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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