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New Proposal Emerges in Trauma Center Debate

The Florida Department of Health this week released a new proposal aimed at resolving a long-running legal and political battle about the approvals of new hospital trauma centers.

The proposed rule would create a formula for the approvals of trauma centers in 19 different areas of the state. Some parts of the hospital industry opposed an earlier version of the proposed rule late last year. The new proposal, like the earlier version, would use a scoring system that would take into consideration issues such as population, transport times to hospitals and community support.

But it also includes additional factors such as whether there are Level 1 trauma centers --- which provide the most intensive treatment --- already in the areas. At least some controversial parts of the earlier version remain in the new proposal, such as factoring community support into decisions about approving trauma centers. Critics of that idea say the decisions should be based on need and not community support.

The Department of Health has scheduled a Feb. 25 hearing on the new proposal.

The controversy about new trauma centers began in 2011 when hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas challenged plans to open trauma centers at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County.

The fight grew in 2012 when Ocala Regional Medical Center was allowed to open a trauma center. Courts have ruled that the Department of Health used an invalid rule in approving the trauma centers, which has spurred continued litigation and the department's effort to come up with a new rule.

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