Health Care

Health officials suggest fewer trauma centers needed in South Florida

There are more trauma centers than needed in South Florida, according to state regulators who say Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties need just three centers in total. The three counties currently have six adult trauma centers — three in Broward and three in Miami-Dade.

But the state’s safety net hospitals — which include 14 of the existing trauma centers — have concerns.

In a March 18 letter to interim Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip, the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida raised concerns about the number of trauma centers the Department of Health has proposed authorizing for each of 19 regions across the state.

The alliance’s vice president, Lindy Kennedy, wrote in the letter that the department failed to address “the important issue of what actions are needed when the number of allocated trauma centers … is less than the number of operating verified trauma centers.”

DOH spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said in a statement that no trauma centers would shut down as a result of the updated rules.

“The allocation rule does not provide authority for the revocation of the license of an existing trauma center,” she said. “The allocation rule details the need (if any) in each trauma service area for additional (new) trauma centers, and provides authority to the department to accept applications, where such new trauma centers are warranted.”

Still, the hospitals are worried about what could happen down the road when centers’ licenses have to be renewed. They’ve asked for a grandfather clause to cover them.

It isn't clear whether extra centers would have their licenses renewed.

“(The alliance) believes that all existing trauma centers that are compliant with state and federal standards should be eligible for recertification, which occurs every seven years, regardless of the number of trauma centers that are allocated,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Trauma centers are tricky business and require a delicate balance: Too many and the doctors at any one may not have enough field experience each year to be highly skilled. Too few and people in need of urgent medical care may not receive the right attention.

That’s why DOH has the power to decide how many each area of the state needs, based on factors like population and the number of severely injured patients discharged from hospitals.