Health Care

Judge: Florida should approve Jackson Health trauma center in South Miami-Dade

A person transported by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is wheeled into the emergency room at Jackson South Community Hospital in 2011. This week, a judge with the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings ruled that the Florida Department of Health was wrong to reject an application from Jackson Health System to open a trauma center at Jackson South. The judge ruled that the health department should approve the application to operate a provisional trauma center at the hospital in South Miami-Dade.
A person transported by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is wheeled into the emergency room at Jackson South Community Hospital in 2011. This week, a judge with the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings ruled that the Florida Department of Health was wrong to reject an application from Jackson Health System to open a trauma center at Jackson South. The judge ruled that the health department should approve the application to operate a provisional trauma center at the hospital in South Miami-Dade. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Jackson Health System’s application for a new trauma center in South Miami-Dade met all of the state’s regulatory requirements and the Florida Department of Health should approve the public hospital network’s petition to open a fourth trauma center in the county, an administrative law judge concluded this week.

The recommended order from Judge John G. Van Laningham advises the health department to essentially reverse course from last year, when the agency turned down an application from Jackson Health to open a Level II trauma unit at Jackson South Community Hospital in Cutler Bay but granted provisional approval for Aventura Hospital and Medical Center to open a trauma center in the northern end of the county.

Jackson Health challenged the health department’s decision last year, and protested the agency’s decision to award a trauma center to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center.

Van Laningham’s order does not equate to an approval of Jackson Health’s application, nor does it address the merits of the health department’s awarding a trauma center license to Aventura Hospital.

A spokeswoman for the Florida health department said Tuesday that the agency has received the judge’s recommended order and is reviewing the recommendations.

But the judge’s order is a victory for Jackson Health, which has been planning a trauma unit in South Miami-Dade as part of a strategy to position itself for a potential increase in competition.

The hospital built a helipad last year and recently opened new operating rooms with added capacity.

Chief Operating Officer Don Steigman said in a memo to Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday that he believes the health department will issue a final decision between March 15 and April 10.

Approval would allow for a trauma center to begin operating as soon as the following day. Steigman said in the memo that Jackson Health would be ready because the trauma physicians assigned to Jackson South would all be experienced physicians from Ryder Trauma Center.

“We are completely ready at a moment’s notice,” he said.

A previous version of this article misstated the author of the memo sent to Miami-Dade Commissioners.

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