Battle brews between Bay area trauma centers

9:52 PM, Jan 13, 2014   |    comments
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Bradenton, Florida -- A battle is brewing between Bay area trauma centers; two of the state's long-running hospitals claim two smaller centers opened illegally and are pulling patients from their hospitals.

"We can do anything in this room," says Lynne Grief, trauma nurse at Blake Medical Center as she points to one of two trauma rooms inside the facility.

"Last month, we opened a chest in here, saved a man stabbed in the heart," says Grief.

Since opening two years ago, Blake's trauma team has treated 2,175 patients.

St. Joseph's Hospital's trauma officials say they, along with Tampa General Hospital, are losing patients and that impacts quality of care.

"In the trauma system it has been shown and proven the more trauma you do the better trauma care the patient gets," says Dr. Mark Vaaler, chief medical officer at St. Joseph's Hospital.

St. Joe's and TGH legally tried to keep Blake and Regional Medical Center in Pasco from opening three years ago. The state agrees its rule book on approving trauma centers needs updating. While new rules are being written, the state says the new trauma centers can stay open, but TGH and St. Joe's are asking the courts to shut them down.

In response to TGH and St. Joe's legal action, an ad supporting smaller trauma centers is running on local TV stations saying the larger hospitals are wanting to "pull the plug" on smaller centers and are only interested in the "bottom line."

Potential patients are listening. Walt Donnelly, 77, lives in Bradenton and says, "Let the people in Tampa take care of people in Tampa, and let the people in Tampa take care of the people in Tampa."

Donnelly says he sees this battle as one over greed. He says, "There's more to it just the dollar. It's about saving lives."

Tampa General Hospital officials would not comment on this issue. Blake's attorney is filing a response this week to TGH's and St. Joe's legal action, saying the state never ordered Blake to close.

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