The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee approved on Monday a proposal (HB 7113) to allow the continued operation of three trauma centers threatened by continuing legal challenges.
By an 11-2 vote, the panel approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, to continue the operation of Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County.
Supporters add the extra trauma centers provide better access to emergency care.
“I think the closer we can get care to the people who need it, the better,” said Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who voted for the bill.
Opponents contend the additional trauma centers take away patients from existing facilities, which have highly trained physicians and staff and are expensive to operate.
“In trauma care, volume equals quality,” said Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz, who with fellow Democrat Rep. Elaine Schwartz was the two dissenters.
The bill arose from nearly three years of legal wrangling between several hospitals and the Florida Department of Health.
The DOH permitted hospitals in Manatee, Pasco and Marion counties to open trauma centers in 2011 and 2012.
But the new trauma centers face continuing legal challenges from other hospitals that have operated long-standing trauma facilities — Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and UF Health Jacksonville.
Both an administrative law judge and the First District Court of Appeal ruled the DOH used an invalid rule when approving the new trauma centers, leading to future legal challenges that threaten to shut them down.
Supporters joined HCA health Care, which operates the newer facilities, in lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation during the current session to ensure the facilities remain open, asking to change laws regarding the acceptance of future trauma centers.
On Tuesday, the Senate Health Policy Committee will pick up the Senate version (SB 1276).