Tampa Tribune Says State Should Close Down Popular New Trauma Centers

Pasco Regional Medical Center Emergency entrance. Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times.

People in Pasco and Manatee counties should not be allowed to have a local trauma hospital to provide emergency medical services to people in their communities, the increasingly liberal Tampa Tribune argues in a recently published editorial. Rising to the defense of Big Medical, the Tribune claims government whim rather than supply, demand, and quality competition should govern when and where hospitals can be built for the care of emergency medical patients in Florida. Government officials should shut down trauma centers at Regional Medical Center in Pasco County and Blake Medical Center in Manatee County to protect the market share of establishment hospitals in Tampa and St. Petersburg, the Tribune asserts.

Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, and Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg filed suit seeking the closure of the Regional Medical Center and Blake Medical Center trauma centers, claiming the two newer trauma centers cut into their market share for emergency trauma patients. With travel time from parts of Manatee and Pasco counties to the establishment trauma hospitals taking an hour or more, the newer trauma centers allow patients to receive faster treatment for serious and life threatening emergencies.

“For trauma patients who live Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, every second counts. Studies show the sooner patients get to a trauma center, the better their chance for survival,” Regional Medical Center explains on its website.

Google Maps shows it takes nearly an hour, during ideal city traffic conditions, to get to any of the three establishment hospitals from Regional Medical Center. It takes a similar amount of time to get to any of the three establishment trauma hospitals from southwest Manatee County.

Regional Medical Center has a real-time emergency room wait-time clock posted at the top of its website. The clock typically shows wait times between 15 and 25 minutes, which is much shorter than many other hospitals.  The clock shows area trauma victims can begin receiving treatment more emergency trauma injuries more than a half hour before they would even arrive — and then have to wait for treatment — at the establishment hospitals.

The establishment hospitals claim they are merely looking out for the benefit of people suffering emergency injuries, rather than their own profits, by seeking to have government close down their competitors. They claim there are not enough good doctors to provide quality care in the new trauma centers. They also claim their own trauma doctors are not able to keep their skills sharp because the newer trauma centers are stealing some of their patients.

Despite the establishment hospitals’ claims, the newer trauma centers offer some of the newest, most cutting-edge facilities in the region, and present a strong case that they are providing better emergency trauma care than the establishment hospitals. Blake Medical Center, for example, is one of only 12 trauma centers earning coveted Level 2 status by state health care officials.

Nevertheless, the Tribune doubled down on collectivism and a state-directed medical economy, arguing the newer trauma hospitals and the freedom of professional medical competition harm rather helps Florida trauma victims.

“Treating the desperately injured or ill doesn’t exactly lend itself to free-market competition,” the Tribune claimed.

The Tribune dismissed the medical importance of having trauma victims in Pasco and Manatee counties treated within an hour of their life-threatening injuries. Citing statewide statistics and congestion-free traffic conditions, “97 percent of Floridians live within an hour of a trauma facility,” the Tribune argued.

“This doesn’t seem like the state was in desperate need for more trauma centers,” the Tribune added.

Michael Ramlet, president and editor of the healthcare website The Morning Consult, told Media Trackers Florida profits motivate establishment hospitals to block newer medical facilities from opening.

“Make no mistake, there’s a competitive and underlining financial reason why they don’t want more trauma centers, but they’re not going to come out and say, ‘it’s simply about the bottom line,’” said Ramlet.

Closing the doors of its new trauma center isn’t a fight Blake Medical Center will easily give up, given that a trauma center adds to the prestige of a hospital.

“It does have a level of prestige because often times trauma centers deal with very complex cases. I think sometimes institutions use it as a way to recruit faculty and doctors,” Ramlet said.