Health Care

New trauma center to open at Jackson South following state approval

A fourth trauma center will open in Miami-Dade on Wednesday after the Florida Department of Health reversed an earlier denial and granted provisional approval for an application from Jackson South Community Hospital, the South Miami-Dade facility run by the county’s public hospital network, Jackson Health System.

Jackson had appealed the health department’s May 2015 denial of its application, saying that the department changed the requirements of the application beyond what is outlined in state law, leaving the hospital in a “guessing game.”

Earlier this year, a judge with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings agreed with Jackson’s appeal and issued a nonbinding recommendation that the state approve the application.

In a memo to county commissioners on Tuesday, Jackson Health CEO Carlos Migoya said that “residents of South Miami-Dade County will be safer” because of the approval.

Jackson already operates the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, one of two Level I trauma centers in Miami-Dade capable of staffing specialists and surgeons around the clock.

Kendall Regional Medical Center, previously a Level II facility, was awarded provisional Level I status on April 29. Aventura Hospital and Medical Center houses a Level II trauma center. In denying Jackson’s application in 2015, the health department had granted provisional approval for Aventura Hospital to open a trauma center in the northern end of the county.

In his memo to county officials, Migoya said that the trauma center at Jackson South, also a Level II, will stand on its own and that its medical staff will be provided by surgeons from the University of Miami Health System, who also staff the Ryder Trauma Center.

Migoya told commissioners that the new trauma center would open on Wednesday.

Jackson South’s trauma center now enters a second phase of the approval process with the state’s health department, including an in-depth review of the application between now and June 30.

Upon successful completion of the in-depth review, an on-site survey will take place between October of this year and May 2017, according to a letter from the health department to Migoya. The state then will notify Jackson South if its trauma center has achieved full verification on or before July 1, 2017.

The new trauma center is a key part of expansion plans for Jackson South. Jackson leaders long have hoped that the facility would lure customers in the affluent southern suburbs who have private insurance.

In September, Jackson trustees approved a $5.8 million contract to build more patient rooms and a third operating room at Jackson South.

Renovations to Jackson South are funded primarily through an $830 million bond payable through a property tax increase and approved by Miami-Dade voters in 2013.

In March, Florida’s health department said there are more trauma centers than needed in South Florida, and suggested revising the state’s rules to allow for only three in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The three counties currently have seven adult trauma centers — three in Broward and four in Miami-Dade.

The push for trauma centers may be related to a significant increase in funding. The centers are funded through vehicle registration taxes and red light camera fines.

As red light cameras proliferated, the amount of money sent to the state’s trauma centers has spiked — from $5.1 million in 2011 to more than $12.6 million in 2012. But in 2013, red light camera funding began to decline, according to a January 2016 assessment of Florida’s trauma centers by the health department.

Florida’s current funding methodology uses trauma patient volumes to distribute funds.