Gail Lazenby: A sinkhole in Florida’s trauma network


Published: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.

Recently, damaging and even deadly sinkholes have become more and more frequent throughout Florida. Last week, Florida’s trauma network experienced another type of sinkhole; one that could also threaten many Floridians’ lives. This sinkhole is the 1st District Court of Appeals reversal of the decision to deny Shands Hospital standing to contest the provisional approval of the trauma center at Ocala Regional Medical Center.

Last week’s decision by the 1st District Court of Appeals is a step backward for Florida’s trauma system and for our community’s ability to protect our citizens. The best way to protect the lives of our citizens and local communities across the state, like my community, The Villages (only minutes from Ocala), is to be prepared to act swiftly and have the necessary tools to save lives when our community is most vulnerable. Perhaps the most important of these tools is a safeguard in the form of an accessible local trauma center with staff, ready and trained to provide quality care twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. For us, this safeguard is the provisional trauma center at Ocala Regional Medical Center.

The provisional level II trauma center at Ocala Regional Medical Center is certainly a needed safeguard in our community. Unfortunately, the recent reversal by the 1st District Court of Appeals puts Shands’ unnecessary, self-interested lawsuits aimed at preventing the verification of Ocala Regional Medical Center’s trauma center before the lives of our community’s patients. This campaign against our area’s trauma center does not stem from patient needs; this campaign stems from these hospitals’ desire to monopolize trauma care without concern for patient safety.

Our community benefits greatly from the trauma center at Ocala Regional Medical Center for a variety of reasons outside its needed trauma services. Since this hospital is privately funded, our area has a state-of-the-art trauma facility without taxpayer dollars. Already, millions of dollars have been invested in the Ocala area since the opening of the trauma center. This investment has included jobs in construction, direct healthcare, and other indirect jobs (i.e. vendors of the trauma center). This state-of-the-art trauma facility will continue to help the area move forward, making the Ocala area –- including The Villages –- a safer and more desirable location for new businesses.

Because the Department of Health is currently rewriting the trauma center allocation rule, it has the opportunity to create a rule that restricts self-interests ability to attempt to monopolize the market through unnecessary lawsuits and better protects all Floridians’ lives with increased access to trauma centers statewide. Hopefully, the rule makers will listen to pleas like my own and the one from Osceola city officials and will understand our need for access to local quality trauma care.

For The Villages, we have been fortunate enough to have the trauma center at Ocala almost in our “backyard” so that our citizens have the best possible chance at survival. Hopefully, the 1st District Court of Appeals is able to understand the truly life-saving value of having local access to trauma care and allows the trauma center at Ocala continue to safeguard our citizens’ lives.

Gail Lazenby is a captain with The Villages Public Safety Department.

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