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Florida Voices: Given Scope of Tragedies, Florida Needs More Trauma Centers

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Last week, America experienced two heartbreaking and terrible tragedies – the Boston Marathon bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas – both of which killed and injured many innocent Americans.

Unfortunately, a week like that reminds us that we, as Americans, need to be prepared for mass casualty incidents. While America may never fully recover from the tragedy in Boston, the events that unfolded after the bombings showcased the extraordinary heroism of citizens, emergency responders and the surgeons at local trauma centers.

Boston, which has a population of 625,000, has seven trauma centers that have the capacity and training needed for an event with mass casualties, including the tragedy that occurred last week. More than 170 individuals, many with severe life-threatening injuries rushed to five of the city’s seven trauma centers.

These institutions, with their state-of-the-art technology and trained surgeons and staff, were able to save the lives of all but three of the injured. To many of us, the surgeons and staff seemed to be performing miracles. But, after all, they have the specific training and the proper equipment to deal with unpredictable and terrible events that inflict tremendous casualties.

And it wasn’t just the trauma centers and their staff that came to victims’ aid. The response included the heroic efforts of volunteers, other marathon watchers and on-the-scene nurses, doctors and first responders working together.

Last week’s other tragedy, the one in Texas, erupted when a fertilizer plant exploded killing 14 and injuring hundreds. The critically injured were taken to a local trauma center.

In both dramatic events, trauma centers helped save lives. With these horrible incidents in the backdrop, there has been a debate in Tallahassee focused on the viability of Florida’s trauma system.

What is clear from Boston and West, Texas, is that Florida should not wait for a similar incident to happen but must prepare for these unforeseeable incidents.

What we should be asking, is whether the current trauma network stands prepared for tragedies such as the ones we have seen in the past week.

I am of the opinion that there is room for improvement in Florida. 

For example, that Clay County where I serve as Chief of Staff for the Sheriff’s Office has no trauma center.

This lack of a trauma center affects the lives and safety of Clay County’s nearly 195,000 citizens and the ability of our officers and first responders to do their jobs. The more time emergency personnel have to use up transporting victims to a trauma center in a different county, the less time they have to respond to emergencies within our own area.

Our department responds to more than 300,000 calls each year, ranging from domestic disputes to armed robbery and other violent crimes. Not only does a lack of access to a trauma center endanger our citizens, it endangers any officer who could be violently injured in the line of duty.

As someone responsible for keeping our citizens and officers safe, this lack greatly troubles me.

 Fortunately, Senate Bill 966, which passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee, is moving Florida one step closer to being prepared for untold tragedies with traumatic injuries.

As this bill moves forward to the Senate and House floor, I encourage both chambers to act with haste and pass trauma legislation that puts patients first.

Studies show that trauma patients are 25 percent more likely to survive a traumatic injury when treated in a trauma center and that chances of survival significantly increases when patients are treated within the “golden hour” following the traumatic event.

Having more trauma centers in Florida, in the appropriate places, will ensure Florida’s residents will be well-taken care of in the case of a tragedy, such as the ones we as a nation experienced this week.


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