Florida’s lawmakers will not be resolving the contentious trauma center debate, as lawmakers failed to come to an agreement on Friday in the last hours of the 2014 session.
Both the House and Senate proposals may have been close, but not enough to help the three disputed trauma centers in Manatee, Pasco and Marion Counties.
Once the problem was lumped in with other, more provocative health-care bills, the two chambers simply could not come together.
With only minutes before the session ended, the House took up the omnibus a health-care bill, approving a 115-page amendment that included — along with a laundry list of proposals — the trauma center issue.
But in the end, the Senate chose not to take up the up the legislative “train.”
“Can you say choo choo,” Weatherford joked with Rep. Jason Brodeur, the sponsor of the amendment. “That is a health care train, my friend.”
The trauma center issue centered on three facilities: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County, Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County, approved to open by the Florida Department of Health in 2011 and 2012.
Hospitals in Tampa Bay and Gainesville challenged the DOH decision, with judges declaring that in making the decisions, the department used an invalid rule. Next came a series of legal cases that threatened the continued operation of the HCA-run trauma centers.
The DOH began creating new rules for approving trauma centers; that proposal also brought on legal challenges.
Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida was the group bringing the challenge against the Manatee, Pasco and Marion County facilities. After Friday’s adjournment, Safety Net President Tony Carvalho said that he hopes both parties, with Department of Health, will be able to negotiate an agreement to settle trauma issue. However, any agreement would have to involve a rule that is fair, has quality standards and guarantees proper access to care.
“I’m always optimistic,” Carvalho added.
“I think all sides are tired of this.”
Among those appealing to lawmakers to keep the trauma centers open included residents and community leaders from Marion County, who traveled to Tallahassee during the session.
Critics of the DOH decision process raised concerns about diluted care if too many trauma centers are open. They maintain that the centers are costly to operate and depend on highly trained staff, and require a minimum number of patients to succeed.