Kendall Regional Medical Center lost one battle in the trauma wars Tuesday at the Miami-Dade County Commission, but has launched a new attack in Tallahassee, asking state regulators to reject a Jackson Health System request that Kendall maintains would force it to close its trauma center.
With about 100 supporters packing commission chambers wearing red T-shirts saying “Kendall Trauma Saves Lives,” Commissioner Javier Souto asked his colleagues to reconsider a Jan. 23 resolution, passed 10-0, authorizing Jackson to take legal action to protect its trauma programs.
Jackson has been complaining that its Ryder Trauma Center has been losing about $28 million a year since the state allowed Kendall Regional to open a second Dade trauma unit in November 2011. State regulators, meanwhile, have delayed granting licenses for trauma centers at Jackson North and Jackson South hospitals.
Souto said his office had been bombarded by 4,000 emails complaining that the commission had acted hastily in granting Jackson legal approval. “A big chunk of people are very offended.”
Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said many of the “thousands” of emails he received quoted a Kendall executive as saying that the commission resolution was intended to “force Kendall to close its trauma center.”
“That’s a lie,” Diaz said. The commission simply gave Jackson an ability “to defend itself.”
The motion to reconsider died on a 6-6 vote.
Mark McKenney, medical director of the Kendall center, issued a statement calling the commission vote “a shame.” During his center’s first 15 months, “we have seen more than 2,550 trauma patients. ... Kendall Regional is dedicated to providing care to a community of 2.5 million people that, as the seventh most populated county in the U.S., has been greatly underserved. The facts are clear about the need for trauma services, and we will continue to fight to provide these vital medical services.”
Meanwhile, the fight at the state level continues. In early January, Jackson asked Department of Health officials for an administrative hearing over state inaction on its two trauma-care licensing requests. Jackson complained that regulators have granted provisional licenses to Kendall and Ocala hospitals under a policy that state courts have ruled invalid.
The Jackson petition maintained that “all provisional licenses issued under the invalid trauma need rule should be revoked.”
On Monday, the Kendall and Ocala hospitals filed their own motions in the case, asking that Jackson’s petitions be dismissed because it “had no right” to request that the licenses of other centers be rejected. If those motions were rejected, the HCA facilities asked that they be allowed to intervene in the Jackson proceedings.
Also on Monday, Jackson Chief Executive Carlos Migoya sent an email to county and state political leaders saying that the trauma legal filings were “highly technical. It is vital to understand that Jackson has not initiated any legal action against any other hospital, hospital system or trauma center in this issue.” On Tuesday Jackson spokesman Edwin O’Dell said, “We are limited as to what we can say during these complex regulatory proceedings.” But he noted that the Health department had suspended Jackson’s trauma applications while approving others. “We seek a level playing field on which our community’s taxpayer-owned hospital system is treated fairly and can compete fairly.”
State regulators are now working to come up with a trauma regulation that courts will deem fair to all parties. Health officials have been insisting that Miami-Dade, with 2.5 million people, needs several trauma centers.
: On Tuesday, an advisory committee from the American College of Surgeons told Florida Health officials about steps they could take to come up with fair trauma regulations.
Jackson officials maintain that, with helicopter transport, its Level 1 trauma center is just minutes away from any place in the county and that it has a highly experienced trauma staff always on duty, while Kendall Regional, a Level 2 center, has to call in specialists to treat complex cases.
Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei and Tampa Bay Times reporter Tia Mitchell contributed to this article.