Senate votes to keep trauma centers open

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On Monday, the Florida Senate approved the bill ensuring continued operation of disputed HCA-run three trauma centers, although it is not clear how the Senate and House will agree on the contentious issue before Friday’s end of the legislative session.

At the last minute, senators added the trauma center provision to SB 1354, another health-care bill, which then passed by a 33-3 vote.

The House also included a similar trauma care proposal to HB 7113, an omnibus health-care bill that is substantially different from the Senate bill.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, the bill’s sponsor, said she is uncertain how the trauma debate will eventually end, but she predicted that it will probably be one among the final issues resolved before the the session ends on Friday.

“We’ll decide on Friday,” Grimsley told reporters on Monday.

The problem centers on continuing legal and political battles over 2011 and 2012 Florida Department of Health decisions allowing trauma centers to start at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County, Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County.

Hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Gainesville areas — each with longstanding trauma centers — have challenged the decisions. A court ruled that the DOH used an invalid rule when it granted approvals to the new facilities.

As the legal challenges endure, bills in both the House and Senate guarantee the trauma centers will remain open. Although the House and Senate bills agree on the basics of keeping the facilities open, the two proposals are different.

Lawmakers face the challenge of determining how to move forward with the trauma issue, even as it remains entangled in broader health-care bills. Leaders in the Senate oppose some sections of the House bill, such as a measure to expand the powers of advanced registered nurse practitioners.

At the same time, the House has stalled a bill similar in principle to the Senate measure, which mostly addresses issues with health insurance.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.