Florida's hospital trauma system is outdated, exclusionary and burdened by infighting, says a new analysis by the American College Of Surgeons. The report, released Monday by the Florida Department of Health, advises that the state delay adding any more of the emergency centers designated to handle patients with the most serious acute injuries. But it appears the department may not heed the recommendation to stop trauma center applications. Spokeswoman Ashley Carr issued a statement late Monday saying there is no moratorium on applications. The analysis said it is critical the state immediately revamp the advisory board that oversees the application process and update its 20-year-old rules for growth. Right now, those advisers come primarily from existing trauma centers, including those who have filed lawsuits over where new centers may go. Monday's report was compiled after ACS Committee on Trauma members visited trauma system leaders in February in Tallahassee. It stems from lawsuits filed two years ago by existing trauma centers, including St. Joseph's Hospital, Tampa General Hospital and Bayfront Medical Center.
The older, urban programs contend new trauma centers in Pasco and Manatee counties are diluting their patient load and damaging their ability to keep their highly specialized medical skills sharp. The suburban centers argue Florida's shifting population demands that more centers open closer to where patients live. The report said the two sides have grown bitter over the way the state pays hospitals to handle trauma patients. Rules now base reimbursement on the number of patients and severity of injuries. “Existing trauma centers have a clear financial incentive to keep new hospitals out of the pool,” the report said.