House votes to repeal limits on trauma centers

Feb 28, 2012

House lawmakers are considering a measure that would make a number of revisions in the state’s healthcare laws, but Regan McCarthy reports, after a long debate, Representatives are taking out one of the most controversial provisions in the bill—a proposal to get rid of the state’s limits on  trauma centers.

Representative Jason Brodeur, a Republican from Sandford, says his measure  would, among other things, get rid of the state’s current limit on the number of trauma centers. Right now only 44 centers are allowed in the state. Some say that ensures quality, but Brodeur says his proposal wouldn’t put the quality of care at risk.

“There are still licensure requirement with the Department of Health that make sure that they meet clinical standards and capabilities for a trauma center.”

But some worry a getting rid of the limit could lead to trauma centers within less than a block of each other.  Republican Representative Ronald “Doc” Renuart, a Osteopathic Physician from Ponte Vedra Beach worries the proposal could create too much competition and spread the kinds of doctors that are needed in trauma centers too thin.

If we create competition in trauma centers the availability will go down and the cost of these specialists will go up. Most likely the specialists will be shared between different facilities. This is already happening in some areas of our state. The greatest danger arises when multiple neuro trauma cases arrive at different trauma centers at the same time and a neurosurgeon is unable to provide care for patients across the city.”

And Renuart says trauma doctors need to get a high volume of cases in order to keep practiced and be able to make the split second decisions that are sometimes needed. Representative Irv Sloserg, a Democrat from Boca Raton says, for him, this is a personal measure.

“If it wasn’t for the trauma center in Delray Beach and taking care of my daughter Emily who was moments away from death then I wouldn’t have a daughter today. And God forbid anybody else should be in the kind of position that I was in and we’re relying on what another Representative said was, ‘hey you know what, let’s just bring in doctors from any other state possible and it doesn’t matter if they’re trauma center doctors or not.’”

Representative Renuart says that’s one reason he filed an amendment that would knock out the part of Broduer’s proposal that would get rid of state’s trauma center limitations. But others, like Republican Representative Matt Gaezt, who says many of his constituents in Fort Walton Beach are 60 miles away from the nearest trauma center, think the market ought to decide where trauma centers go. 

“How would I go back to my district and say in Fort Walton Beach there’s a private company that wants to come and build a trauma center with their own dollars, but government doesn’t think it’s appropriate for them to do so. I would beg this of you, my fellow members, where there is private capital and where there is a market need, let’s not let government  get in the way of good healthcare.”

Meanwhile, Representative Fred Costello, a Republican from DeLand, says the free market argument doesn’t belong in a conversation about trauma centers.

“I love competition and I hate mandates, but things like trauma centers are different.”

Costello says it’s important for the state to recognize that things like the specialized doctors who work at trauma centers are a limited resource.

House members voted to accept Representative Renuart’s amendment. The bill, which includes other provisions like changing the way Wick benefits are given out, rolls over to a third reading with a floor vote next.