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Orlando Sentinel: Close the gaps in trauma-care access: My Word

Monday, June 09, 2014

By Joe Myers

This year’s state legislative session has come and gone, and unfortunately, our elected officials were unable to push through comprehensive trauma legislation. The legislation would have provided certainty for our state’s trauma system by ending the longstanding legal battles attempting to shut down Florida’s newest trauma centers.

Each year as hurricane season approaches, any gaps in our preparations become evident.

Emergency personnel on the front lines of our communities are even more acutely aware of the need for the lifesaving services provided by Florida’s trauma centers, and this year is no different.

Despite recent predictions that this hurricane season may be milder than normal, we must remember that in 2012, some forecasters greatly underestimated the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic. And whether our region experiences one hurricane or one dozen, our state’s trauma centers will play a critical role in saving the lives of our residents and visitors, just as they do every day.

Traumatic injuries may be even more unpredictable than hurricanes themselves. No one ever plans to suffer a major workplace accident or a fall at home, or to be hurt in a serious car accident, to fall victim to a violent crime, or to suffer an injury during a severe storm. But trauma does happen, and when it does, receiving treatment within minutes at a local trauma center is the difference between life and death.

Having served as the director of emergency management in North Carolina for eight years and here in Florida for eight more, I know just how critical quick access to trauma care is for saving lives and to the efficiency of first responders. Every additional minute spent transporting trauma victims to a distant trauma center is time that first responders are not able to spend attending to other emergencies in their communities. Long transport distances prove to be challenging for emergency departments that are already faced with limited resources.

It is my hope that all trauma stakeholders will put an end to this competitive battle and come together to ensure our state’s trauma system provides access for all Floridians, because patients need and deserve continued access to lifesaving care.

The question is not whether traumatic injuries or natural disasters will affect us all, but whether we will be prepared to save lives when they do occur.

Joe Myers of Tallahassee is a founding partner and CEO for Disasters, Strategies, & Ideas Group LLC.

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