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Plan Would Scrap Limits On Trauma Centers

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.

A Senate Republican on Tuesday filed a proposal that would eliminate caps on the numbers of trauma centers in the state.

The bill (SB 746), filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, came two weeks after Gov. Rick Scott called for getting rid of a limit of 44 trauma centers statewide. In addition to eliminating the overall cap, Hutson's bill also would end limits on the numbers of trauma centers in each of 19 regions — limits that have prompted much of the legal wrangling in recent years among hospitals.

Most recently, an administrative law judge ruled last week that the Florida Department of Health had improperly allowed Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County to open a trauma center in 2016. That ruling stemmed, at least in part, from a regulation allocating one trauma center to a five-county region of Northeast Florida. UF Health Jacksonville, which challenged the Orange Park trauma center, has long operated a trauma facility in the region.

Hutson's bill could become part of a broader debate during the upcoming legislative session about health-care regulations. Scott and House Republican leaders, for example, have backed eliminating what is known as the "certificate of need" process, which regulates whether hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities can be built.

Proponents of more trauma centers argue that the facilities can help save lives by reducing the amounts of time and distance needed to transport injured people for care. But critics of easing the limits on trauma centers say the facilities are costly to operate and require highly trained medical staffs. They contend that adding new facilities can siphon patients and staff from existing trauma centers.