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Trauma litigation piles up

from FCEP

With Surgeon General John Armstrong describing court fights as the "unpleasantness," the Florida Department of Health recently said it faces 19 legal cases related to decisions about approving new trauma centers. Armstrong and agency General Counsel Jennifer Tschetter gave a presentation to the House Health Innovation Subcommittee about the trauma system, which has been embroiled since 2011 in legal disputes about new trauma centers.

Many of the cases, pending in the 1st District Court of Appeal and the state Division of Administrative Hearings, focus on department decisions that have allowed trauma centers to operate at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County. Hospitals that have long operated trauma centers in the Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Gainesville areas have challenged new trauma-facility approvals.

The Department of Health recently sent nine cases, most involving Blake Medical Center and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, to the state Division of Administrative Hearings. But the department also faces legal challenges because of decisions to deny trauma-center approvals at Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee and at Jackson North and Jackson South hospitals in Miami-Dade County, according to information presented to the House panel.

A major part of the litigation stems from decisions by an administrative law judge and the 1st District Court of Appeal that the department had used an invalid rule in approving new trauma centers. The department has tried to put together a replacement rule, but that also has led to divisions in the hospital industry. As a result, the department will hold a public negotiating session Jan. 23 that will be led by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell. more

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