Nurses demand training, neighbors oppose flights for Blake trauma center

dgulliver@bradenton.comAugust 4, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Blake Medical Center’s planned trauma center might need some first aid itself, as it took shots Wednesday on two fronts.

At noon, nurses in blood-red scrubs and T-shirts from as far away as New Port Richey and Spring Hill gathered to support their colleagues, calling for more preparation before the trauma patients start arriving this fall.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Bobby Edington garnered some attention for his fledgling neighborhood campaign against trauma helicopters and ambulances.

Blake’s trauma center is expected to open as early as October, but its approval is pending the outcome of a court case in Tallahassee. The judge is expected to rule this month.

The nurses, backed by their union, rallied to request more training and better planning for handling trauma patients.

“We just want training for our nurses so we can give the best care possible,” said Patsy Ernst, a former emergency room nurse now working in outpatient surgery, and a Blake nurse for 16 years.

“These patients are real people, members of our communities and could be our friends and families, not actors on TV,” said Candice Cordero, a Blake nurse for eight years.

They say they are concerned they may be underprepared if more patients arrive than expected, both during trauma center treatment and recovery in various hospital units.

But Blake administrators say they have gone beyond state training standards and will be adding mock traumas and simulations for further hands-on training.

The nurses argue that specialized training needs to be more widely available to current staff. They are asking for changes in how the hospital will manage trauma patients after surgery, and want an overall increase in staffing to manage those patients.

The nurses were adamant but cordial Wednesday, staying on their message without criticizing Blake’s management or quality of care.

Their only criticism was that their requests “have fallen on deaf ears,” Cordero said.

Blake administrators said they invited nursing union leaders to a meeting when they heard about the union’s concerns. But Cordero called it a question-and-answer session that did not recognize the requests they had made.

Edington was a bit more critical than the nurses.

He has lived on 17th Avenue since 2007, and is concerned about what helicopter and ambulance traffic and noise might do to his neighborhood, where property values already have plummeted.

“It is a kick in the pants for residents,” he said.

With many trauma cases resulting from accidents on Interestate 75, he said, it makes little sense to have a trauma center miles farther inland than Lakewood Ranch Medical Center or Manatee Memorial Hospital.

So he began researching Blake’s filings with government, writing to officials, recruiting neighbors and building a Facebook page named “Fly Cockroach,” likening the medical helicopters to the bugs.

“Like cockroaches might invade your home,” he said. “Where there’s one, there’s more.”

Edington previously worked for two airlines and for NASA. He said that experience gives him concerns about the chance of helicopters crashing, colliding with other aircraft or damaging buildings with their rotor wash. Ambulances might drive at a high speed through the neighborhood, endangering seniors or children at nearby schools.

Edington has questioned state and local officials about the project, particularly Blake’s construction of a second helipad, which he sees as a harbinger of even more helicopter traffic.

Florida Department of Transportation officials said they were unaware of the landing pad when he called, but since then have approved it as a temporary landing site while the original helipad is being improved.

Edington’s campaign drew little attention until late Tuesday, when he filed a statement of support for the Tampa Bay hospitals fighting the Blake trauma center in a Tallahassee court.

The filing drew reporters to Edington’s home Wednesday, and prompted a response from the Manatee County Commission and Bradenton planning officials.

It’s unclear what effect his letter might have on the court case; a ruling is expected this month.

Blake said its helipad has been licensed for many years and the hospital has and will continue to follow regulations.

“We are confident that we can add critical trauma services for the community, while continuing to be a good neighbor,” spokeswoman Stephanie Petta said.

Edington used the same words, calling Blake “a good neighbor.” He just wants things to stay the way they are.

“They’re as good as gold down there at Blake,” he said. “We just don’t want the trauma center there.

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