Miami-Dade needs more than one trauma center

While many people in our community are excitedly discussing whether or not to remodel the Miami Dolphins Stadium, we should turn the focus towards a more serious issue — the Miami-Dade Commission’s recent decision to authorize a lawsuit that contests the provisional approval of the Kendall Medical South Florida Trauma Center.

Our home football team is certainly important for community spirit, but the issue of closing the new South Florida Trauma Center at Kendall Regional Medical Center is an issue of life or death — one that will directly affect the community at large as it relates to local access to quality trauma care.

By authorizing a lawsuit that contests the provisional approval of the Kendall Medical Center trauma center, the Miami-Dade Commission and The Herald’s editorial board demonstrate a misguided set of priorities. In essence this action shows a lack of focus in serving this community. Closing this trauma center will deny our community a much higher level of service and quality care that will surely cost lives.

As the medical director of the South Florida Trauma Center, I am hardly a disinterested observer. But all residents and visitors to Miami-Dade should realize what is at stake here in terms of their own health and safety.

Trauma centers are uniquely designed and staffed to handle critically injured patients whose needs go beyond what a standard emergency room is equipped to treat. In trauma cases, every patient is battling for his or her life and the outcome of the battle often depends on how quickly the victim can reach treatment by a certified trauma team. The golden hour is ever so important to saving that patient’s life.

Trauma injuries come in endless varieties, but the most common causes in Miami-Dade are auto accidents, stabbings and gunshot wounds. Regardless of the type of traumatic injury, research shows that survival chances increase by 25 percent when trauma patients are treated in trauma centers.

Prior to the opening of the trauma center at Kendall, a peer reviewed study showed that over 50 percent of trauma patients in Miami-Dade were not treated in trauma centers. That figure tracks with results reported by the Florida Department of Health. The system prior to Kendall opening a trauma center was unable to accommodate all the severely injured patients.

Access to trauma care is about one thing and one thing only — saving the lives of the most gravely injured. Our trauma center is proud to have treated over 2,500 patients in our first year of operation, and we will continue to serve this community with a single mission — to save lives.

If the Kendall Regional Medical Center is shut down, Miami-Dade County, which is the seventh largest county in the United States, would only have one adult trauma center. The other hospital, Jackson Memorial, is the same hospital involved in bringing the lawsuit against Kendall Medical Center. This lawsuit, then, seems rooted in the worst kind of healthcare politics — the kind that would sacrifice patient welfare in the interest of a hospital’s bottom line by shutting down what it sees as competition.

Even with two trauma centers, though, there is still a critical need for trauma care in Miami-Dade. Now that Kendall has invested millions of dollars in non-taxpayer funds to open the center, this baseless lawsuit is trying to shut our doors. Residents of Miami-Dade and Monroe should speak up and contact the Department of Health and tell them that this would be, as they say in football, a fumble on the one-yard line, which will put precious lives on the line.

Dr. Mark G. McKenney is a leading trauma surgeon and medical director of the South Florida Trauma Center at Kendall Regional Medical Center.

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