Must-read editorial urges Legislature not to close Blake trauma center

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An editorial in today’s Bradenton Herald  urges the Florida Legislature not to close the 2-year-old trauma center at Blake Medical Center.

The battles between two new trauma units and established centers provoked several lawsuits and got the attention of the House Health Innovation subcommittee.

The issues are patients and payments, according to the editorial board, not health or lives.

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Tampa General Hospital asked the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee to close the trauma centers at both Blake and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco. Their rationale for challenging the new units was economic hardship from the competition.

Blake’s trauma center treated more than 2,100 patients since opening, avoiding various helicopter and ambulance rides north of the Sunshine Skyway, which waste precious time in emergencies. Families have easy visitation access for patients.

An increase in visitors and residents will result in more trauma patients statewide, which is certainly enough to keep all units prosperous.

Blake officials say patient reduction in the older centers has been insignificant. Hearing the hard numbers is essential for the court to make a proper decision.

The Florida Department of Health has been dragging its feet in updating the rules on locating trauma centers and eliminating outdated regulations.

Since both St. Joseph’s and Tampa General are in Tampa, the Herald finds it odd that one city warrants two trauma units while none were in Manatee and Sarasota counties until Blake.

Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg is also involved in the lawsuits, making it three in a single metropolitan area — bringing up the question of oversaturation.

It is a matter of saving lives with timely emergency care.

Tampa hospitals wasted a lot of money filing the lawsuits, forcing additional costs of hiring legal teams on the two newer centers.

‘This extreme move by public hospitals that live off Floridians’ tax dollars to try to close our trauma center is simply appalling,” Lynne Grief, Blake Medical Center’s vice president of trauma services, told the Herald last month.

“It puts their profits above the health needs of the community who benefit from having trauma care available to them on this side of the bridge.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.