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trauma centers

Watered-down trauma center bill passes House

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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