Hold off on new trauma centers, panel warns

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauFebruary 6, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE -- A committee of national experts conducting a review of Florida's trauma system has recommended a statewide moratorium on new trauma centers.

That would mean no new trauma centers in Florida until criteria is established to determine how and where new facilities should be created. Centers that have provisional status would also be prevented from obtaining full approval during the moratorium.

The report comes just days after Blake Medical Center in Bradenton and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson and were given full status Friday despite ongoing legal challenges.

Surgeon General John Armstrong was sitting front and center Tuesday as the head of a team from the American College of Surgeons proposed the moratorium as one of a dozen "key recommendations."

After the meeting, Armstrong would not say whether he would support a moratori

um or if it is even in his power to call for one. All of the recommendations from the independent reviewers will be considered as the state tries to move past the yearslong fights between established trauma centers and hospitals applying to create new ones, Armstrong said.

"The discord has been very challenging," he said. "And my belief is that the leaders in trauma in our state will come together, set aside differences and focus on how we can have an even better trauma system."

Much of the acrimony has centered on applications for new centers, many of which have been vehemently opposed by existing facilities that argue new centers would reduce funding and overall quality of care.

While Blake Medical Center successfully earned full trauma center status after a year of probation, other hospitals have fallen short. In December, the state denied applications from Jackson North Medical Center in North Miami Beach and Jackson South Community Hospital in Miami.

The state courts invalidated the rules that had been used to approve new trauma centers, which date back to the early 1990s. The state is now in the process of establishing new criteria.

Dr. Robert Winchell, a trauma surgeon from Maine who led the evaluation team, said the state needs to better measure how patients are being served before creating a process to establish facilities. The committee's full report, due in about 8 weeks, will include up to 100 recommendations.

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