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 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.