Is Blake Medical Center's new trauma center headed toward oblivion? We hope not. But in the high-stakes courtroom battle between not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals, Blake and other new HCA centers lost as an appeals court invalidated the 20-year-old regulation cited in the state's approval of the new trauma programs.
HCA is pressing on, asking the court to reconsider. Meanwhile, Blake's trauma unit will remain open to serve the most critically injured people in the region. Those patients avoid costly helicopter rides to St. Petersburg's Bayfront Medical Center, and their families and friends avoid the inconvenience of traveling long distances to visit.
Why should Manatee County patients be expected to contribute to the financial strength of a hospital in another county? That's one of the primary arguments in this duel. Bayfront in particular is suffering financial losses with 68 percent fewer trauma patients from outside Pinellas County in the aftermath of the HCA openings.
Quicker medical treatment saves lives. But an administrative court judge ruled last year the 1992 state rule outdated, noting that it did not consider such advances as the improvements in life-support systems in ambulances and the ability of helicopters to carry trauma patients longer distances.
We're no jurist, but that doesn't seem like a reasonable argument to justify the closure of the new, far more convenient trauma centers. Forcing patients to endure long drives or flights does not make sense.
The state has a responsibility to ensure Florida is not over saturated with trauma units. At what point, though, do patients rights apply? Shouldn't that be a consideration, too? The fight isn't over, so stay tuned.