BRADENTON -- An ad from a national seniors advocacy group has hit the airwaves to rally support for Bradenton's Blake Medical Center and other hospitals fighting an effort to force them to close their trauma centers.
The 60 Plus Association Inc.'s ad claims Tampa Bay-area hospitals "want to pull the plug on life-saving care all over Florida," by shutting down new trauma centers.
"Don't let them put their bottom line ahead of our lives," the ad says.
Daniel Friedrich, Blake chief executive officer, said the medical center is aligned with 60 Plus "on the need for a 21st century trauma system in Florida that is focused on putting patients first."
Asked if the hospital had contributed to the campaign, Friedrich said 60 Plus normally opts not to discuss such details.
"Out of respect for their process, we'll simply say we have supported them, respect their role in advocacy on behalf of seniors, and we hope to continue to serve the constituency they represent," Friedrich said.
He noted Blake had stepped up to meet a need for local access to high quality care.
"It's unfortunate that we are talking about who paid for advocacy ads, instead of the lives at stake, because of the extreme actions of Tampa General, Shands UF, St. Joseph's and Bayfront," he added.
"Trauma care is not about advertisements or a hospital's bottom line; it's about saving lives. That is our mission, and that is what we're committed to doing here in Manatee County," Friedrich said.
Tampa hospitals are continuing their court fight to close the 2-year-old trauma center at Blake.
St. Joseph's Hospital, part of the private, not-for-profit BayCare Health System, and Tampa General Hospital, also a private, not-for-profit hospital, recently filed motions with the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee.
They asked the court to close trauma centers at Blake and at the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson, both operated by an affil
iate of the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America.
The Tampa hospitals cited their own economic hardships if the new centers stay open.
Asked for a comment on the ad campaign, Tampa General spokeswoman Ellen Fiss said: "We've been asked today, and we won't be commenting. There's ongoing litigation, and we prefer not to comment."
Last week, the right-leaning 60 Plus Association said it had launched a $250,000 ad campaign. On its website, the group acknowledges it has been called a "conservative alternative" to the AARP.
"The ads will blanket the television and radio markets in Tallahassee, Tampa and the Gainesville/Ocala area," an association press release said.
James Martin, association chairman, did not return a call Monday seeking comment.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.