Miami-Dade County

Jackson says state health department 'invented' requirements in trauma center application

Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital. el Nuevo Herald

After the Florida Department of Health denied Jackson Health System its bid for a trauma unit in South Miami-Dade April 30, Jackson is fighting back, saying that the department changed the requirements of the application beyond what is outlined in state law, leaving the hospital in a “guessing game.”

In a petition to the department on Monday, Jackson fought back against the department’s claims that its application for a license to operate a trauma unit at Jackson South Community Hospital was denied because it was missing documentation and some of the information was not up to state standards.

Jackson said it corrected the errors in early April but the license was still denied because the department “invented, or created” requirements in the application without notifying the health system. That left Jackson scrambling to prepare its documentation, according to the petition.

“Not only would JSCH [Jackson South Community Hospital] be forced to guess, or speculate what the right documentation would be, it would require them to have a mystical ability to know what the department’s ad hoc-created documentation would be,” the petition said.

The state Department of Health would not comment on the claims in the petition.

Jackson claimed that the department created new standards for hospitals looking to build a trauma center.

“This had the effect of creating an unlevel playing field, where the department, as referee, could prescribe whatever rules of the the game it saw fit, regardless of what the law provided for,” Jackson said in the petition.

The DOH rejected the application, saying, in part, that Jackson had incomplete medical education requirements for the trauma center’s surgeons and nurses, an unlicensed helicopter landing pad at Jackson South and no documentation that the Federal Aviation Administration had approved use of airspace.

Jackson said those claims are false.

For example, the health system said in the petition that the trauma standard for emergency physician medical education calls for five credit hours in trauma-related topics every year. But the department, in its rejection of the application, said Jackson’s emergency physicians didn’t have 10 credit hours — twice those required by law.

Jackson also filed a resolution asking the Public Health Trust for permission to take legal action against the department and all “relevant parties” — including Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, the other hospital that applied for and won a license for a trauma unit this year.

Aventura Hospital could not be reached for comment.

Jackson had the only trauma center in Miami-Dade for 14 years — Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital — before Kendall Regional Medical Center opened one in 2011, cutting into Jackson’s revenues. In 2013, Jackson petitioned the state to revoke Kendall Regional’s trauma license, saying it was granted illegally. Although it’s unclear how it was settled, Kendall still operates its trauma center.

The board will vote on the resolution to take legal action Tuesday morning and then the Miami-Dade County Commission will weigh in, according to the resolution.

Follow @MHhealth for health news from South Florida and around the nation. This article was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.