Senate Passes Trauma Care Centers Bill After Decade Of 'Intense Dispute'

Mar 6, 2018

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare serves as the only Level II trauma center in the Big Bend region.
Credit Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare / TMH

More than a decade of discord over how to apportion Florida’s trauma centers may have come to a close Tuesday, with the Senate’s passage of what amounts to a compromise. 

Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) is celebrating a long-awaited “kumbaya” moment after her trauma care centers bill passed unanimously.

Young dubbed the measure the “trauma without drama” bill, which she says came together as a “consensus product” with bi-partisan support.

“After at least a decade of intense dispute over our trauma system, I think you can feel good about the product that you have and that this will lead to a system that best serves your constituents,” Young said.

The bill changes the borders of trauma service areas. There are currently 19 around the state, drawn up based on population. The measure will eliminate the service area serving Dade and Monroe counties and allow for revisions to others.

For Bruce Rueben, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, the measure’s passage symbolizes a new day for trauma care in the state. He says some healthcare organizations felt stifled under the present system.

“Trauma has always been determined, the location and number of trauma services, has been done through a needs-based system,” Rueben said. “In recent years … some healthcare organizations feel like that system wasn’t allowing them to develop trauma centers where they chose to, so it became very controversial,”

Rueben calls Young’s leadership a “game-changer.”

“I think that a lot of this frustration and controversy we’ve dealt with over the years is going to be resolved, because we have a bill now that realigns the borders of the trauma service areas, it maintains a needs-based approach to determining the number and the placement of trauma centers,” Rueben said.

The plan also requires the Department of Health to create the Florida Trauma System Advisory Council, which will submit reports to DOH on how to maximize resources.

“So you’ve got a group of people who are going to oversee how these new rules are implemented, and what the consequences of them are,” Rueben said. “This should allow us to start form a position of cooperation among the stakeholders.”

Now, DOH will have to watch and wait for results as it is tasked with performing an analysis of the state’s trauma system every three years, beginning in 2020.