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Stop Fighting, Revamp Trauma Network, Experts Say

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
University of South Florida
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The fight among Florida hospitals over which ones get to call themselves trauma centers is so intense in Florida that it has pushed aside other work that needs to be done in the interest of public health and must be resolved, a report from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma says.

The group called for the Department of Health to begin updating its rules and revamping its advisory board immediately to be more "inclusive" of stakeholders who feel left out of the decisions. And it called for DOH to hold off on granting trauma center designation until that can be done.

But the Tampa Tribune reports that DOH may not heed the ACS recommendation. Spokeswoman Ashley Carr issued a statement late Monday saying there is no moratorium on applications.

Health News Florida called DOH's Surgeon General, John Armstrong, for verification on Tuesday morning. But his office redirected the call to the public-information office, where no one was available to speak to the public because they were all in a meeting, a receptionist said.

Armstrong, a former trauma surgeon, was appointed to DOH a year ago from University of South Florida in Tampa, where he was director of the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS).  Before USF, he was trauma medical director at Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

The trauma report notes that DOH must have the authority to designate trauma centers according to need rather than politics. However, the Legislature has been hammering on DOH for years, and the Senate withheld confirmation of Armstrong during the recent session.

The state's trauma system came close to total deregulation during the session, pushed by the hospital chain HCA and rural areas that felt neglected.  At the last minute, the bill was modified to limit the areas in which new trauma centers could be set up.

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, which has been pushing for a trauma center designation, will be able to get one under the bill.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.