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Proposed Pinellas Trauma Center Challenged

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

Amid a legislative debate about the state's trauma-care system, a proposal by a St. Petersburg hospital to open a trauma center has drawn a legal challenge.

Bayfront Health-St. Petersburg has filed the challenge, arguing that the Florida Department of Health should not move forward with a proposal by Northside Hospital to open a trauma center, according to documents posted Tuesday on the state Division of Administrative Hearings website.

In September, Northside Hospital, which is in St. Petersburg, filed what is known as a "letter of intent" that is a key initial step in seeking state approval to open a trauma center. But Bayfront, which has long operated a trauma center, contends in the challenge that the Department of Health should not be able to process the letter of intent and potentially approve a trauma center at Northside.

Bayfront's argument is based on part of state law that limits the number of trauma centers statewide to 44 and also places limits in 19 different geographic regions. The region made up of Pinellas and Pasco counties is limited to two trauma centers, and a Northside trauma center would be the third in the region, Bayfront argues in the challenge.

The documents also indicate the Department of Health could make a decision on the Northside trauma proposal after April 30. Similar legal battles have flared across the state in recent years about proposals by hospitals in the HCA health-care chain to open trauma centers. Northside is an HCA hospital.

House Republican leaders are backing a bill (HB 1077) that would eliminate the limits on the numbers of trauma centers, though the idea has not moved forward in the Senate.