Efforts to deregulate Florida’s entire hospital trauma center system stalled today in the Florida Senate.
Bills filed in the past two weeks proposed taking oversight of the specialized hospital emergency rooms away from the Department of Health. The new application process would have provided hospitals a quicker route to opening, and would have given suburban and rural residents closer access to emergency care.
The amendment the Senate approved this afternoon was a stripped down version that gave a fast track to only two rural hospitals: one in Sebring and one in Fort Walton Beach.
Trauma center expansion has been a contentious topic in Florida for several years, and has triggered multiple lawsuits involving new centers in Pasco, Manatee and Marion counties.
Smaller hospitals have maintained there aren’t enough trauma centers close to the state’s growing population. Urban hospitals argue that more trauma centers will dilute the quality of care provided by specialized doctors, nurses and staff needed to handle severely injured patients.
Hospitals opposing the expansion include Tampa General, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Their backers say state trauma center rules have been undergoing an extensive overhaul for nearly a year.
“We’ve gone through a lot of angst, and the state is getting serious about the trauma system,” said Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which represents 14 urban hospitals across the state. “We support the process that is in place.”
It isn’t clear if the House will consider the Senate’s amendment Friday, the legislative session’s final day.