Final negotiations scheduled to end trauma center dispute

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Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong said Tuesday a mediation session next week would be the last attempt to reach an agreement on clearing new trauma centers to open across the state.

The final talks came after several unsuccessful efforts to revise the rules, as well as more than two years of legal clashes.

Results of the collective negotiating session “will speak for themselves,” Armstrong told the Senate Health Policy Committee. If talks are ineffective, the resulting stalemate would leave little choice but for the Florida Department of Health turn to the Legislature to resolve the conflict within the hospital industry.

A negotiating session Jan. 23 will consist of a number of industry representatives, at odds since 2011 when Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals challenged efforts by HCA-affiliated hospitals to open independent trauma centers.

Both an appeals court and administrative law judge sided with the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals in ruling the Department of Health used an invalid rule when approving new trauma centers.

The decision resulted in legal disputes over trauma centers at various HCA-controlled healthcare centers: Ocala Regional Medical Center, Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County. Courts were asked to determine if those facilities should continue to operate.

Last year, the Department of Health issued a draft-revised rule, but that failed to resolve the divisions in the industry.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.