JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Numerous Clay County officials showed up at a workshop held by the Florida Department of Health to state their case for having a trauma center in Orange Park, one day after the state suspended the license for the provisional Level II center at the Orange Park Medical Center.
There are now 27 trauma centers in Florida, but a state law allowing up to 42 was struck down by a judge when challenged by several existing trauma centers, including Shands Jacksonville. The judge said the state needs to come up with new apportionment rules and that was the purpose of the workshop.
OPMC director Tom Pentz was quick to share his devastation, amazement and shock over the loss of the trauma center there.
"We have spent so much time and effort in building a trauma center and feel it is very world class."
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Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock argued patients had a 25 percent greater survival rate if they could receive trauma care within the first 60 minutes, the golden hour he called it. He said transport times improved dramatically with the opening of the OPMC trauma center.
"My times were below 15 minutes. Imagine the difference, the life saving impact it could have on citizens if I can reduce that time."
Clay Sheriff Rick Beseler argued the trauma center saved the life of Deputy Matt Hanlin, who was injured in the shootout that killed Deputy David White.
"He received a potentially mortal gunshot wound in the gunfight one year ago tomorrow. Had he not been able to receive immediate care, he would have easily bled to death. "
Beseler also argued that travel times are slowed by heavy congestion in Clay County, with only two roads north, Highways 17 and 21.
"It is always an ardous journey, especially during the rush hour times."
Representatives for the trauma center at Shands Jacksonville were there to argue that too many trauma centers in one area dilutes quality care and results in a bidding war for highly trained doctors and nurses.
"They recruit many of our surgeons, they offer them better call time, they get our best nurses, they steal, ha they don't steal, they recruit and offer better packages to our trauma directors," said Shands Attorney Seann Frazier.
Don Hodges Jr. gave a very emotional appeal. He was hurt badly in a 2007 car crash and said the Shands trauma center saved his life and he spent three-and-a-half months there. He now works there as a paramedic and urged the state not to water down an excellent trauma care system.
"We are the best of the best, and if you dilute that and if you just put more trauma centers than baptist churches in the city, that is not going to help anything."
OPMC staff will meet with health department attorneys next week and ask if they can continue operating as a Level II center while they appeal the license suspension.
Many others from Clay County were there, some arguing that when the southern beltway through Clay County is finished, that the population will grow as new rooftops are added around the new road.
First Coast News