MANATEE -- The continued court battle over trauma care service rights in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties jeopardizes patient safety, according to a Blake Medical Center official.
Hospitals affiliated with the HCA health care chain are seeking a rehearing in the 1st District Court of Appeal after a ruling this month allowed challenges to the continued operation of trauma centers at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County.
Dr. Brian Kimbrell, trauma director of Blake Medical Center, released the following statement in reaction to the USF/HCA Network's decision to appeal the order of the 1st District Court of Appeals: "At Blake Medical Center, we are disappointed that the self-interests of other hospitals in the region that are attempting to monopolize the market are coming before the lives of our patients. Fortunately, the USF/HCA Trauma Network is committed to providing lifesaving trauma care in the region and is appealing the recent 1st District Court of Appeal's decision."
Documents filed Friday also request the appeals court send two questions to the Florida Supreme Court, a process known as certifying questions of "great public importance."
In documents filed Friday, HCA attorneys took issue with decisions made by a three-judge appeals court panel. One issue involves the impact of the new trauma centers on older facilities.
"It is inevitable and unavoidable that the opening of a new trauma center will divert some trauma victims to a newly established, closer facility; by the same token, those very trauma victims receive trauma center services more quickly than they would otherwise," the HCA document read.
"Since 2011, our trauma center has protected the lives of patients in Trauma Service Area 13, composed of Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, and since January 2012 our facility has treated 1,660 patients," Kimbrell said. "Our trauma center has been protecting our community and our visitors for nearly two years and our trauma services continue to prove critical need in the community. The Court's recent ruling jeopardizes lifesaving trauma care for these communities."
The Florida Department of Health allowed the trauma centers to open in 2011, despite a ruling by an administrative law judge the department used an invalid rule in approving the facilities. The department later denied an attempt by Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals to challenge the approvals, saying those hospitals did not have legal standing.
But the 1st District Court of Appeal last month said the challenges should be heard by the state Division of Administrative Hearings.
The Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals -- Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and UF Health Jacksonville -- have long operated trauma centers.