Judge clears Ocala trauma center


Published: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 5:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 5:47 p.m.

Ocala Regional Medical Center’s new trauma center will continue operations for the foreseeable future following a Leon County circuit judge’s ruling on Friday.

Munroe Regional Medical Center, Shands at the University of Florida and Shands Jacksonville Medical Center had petitioned Judge Terry Lewis in December, asking him to find that the Florida Department of Health acted outside its authority when granting Ocala Regional permission to start its trauma center.

The petition involved high clinical and financial stakes for players on both sides of the legal argument.

Until Ocala Regional’s trauma center opened in December, the most severely injured Marion County patients were transported to Shands for trauma care. Much of that has now stopped and Shands predicts that one-third of its 2,500 annual trauma patients will be taken to Ocala Regional.

The new trauma center serves Marion, Lake, Sumter and Citrus counties.

In his one-page ruling, Lewis did not explain his reasons for not granting Shands and Munroe their request. The lawsuit was filed against the Department of Health, not Ocala Regional.

Munroe released a statement soon after Lewis’ ruling: “We are disappointed that the court did not overturn the Department of Health’s approval of Ocala Regional Medical Center’s (ORMC) trauma center, which we believe was done without statutory authority,” Munroe CEO and President Steve Purves said.

“We believe a different legal result would have allowed Munroe, together with UF and Shands, to enhance the delivery of quality trauma services in central Florida and would have allowed a better alternative for our region rather than the development of another costly and duplicative trauma center.

“This order means that the Department of Health’s approval of ORMC’s trauma center is allowed to stand without consideration of the impact on the existing Level 1 trauma center located at Shands, and without consideration of need. Despite this result, Munroe Regional Medical Center looks forward to working with the Department of Health — and other hospitals — in developing a new system identifying the real need for trauma services throughout the state,” Purves concluded.

Ocala Regional has a Level 2 trauma center, which means it does not provide the same scope of care for some cases and is not associated with an academic program.

Attorney Steve Ecenia represents Ocala Regional’s parent company, Hospital Corporation of America, in the legal dispute. He said Shands and Munroe now must decide whether to appeal. They have 30 days.

“We’ll just wait and see what happens, but we’re pleased the judge didn’t try and interfere with the Ocala area getting trauma care,” he said.

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