Sarasota News Leader

03/21/2014

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TRAUMA CENTER TUSSLE ENDANGERS HEALTH OF FLORIDIANS EDITORIAL OPINION EDITORIAL Trauma treatment is a subspecialty within emergency medicine. Physicians and support staff trained to deal with the most horrific injuries — gunshots, stabbings, car crashes and the like — give patients who might have died of their wounds a few decades ago the chance to live today. The window of opportu- nity in which they must begin their work, to be most successful, is almost universally called the "golden hour" — that hour between the injury and the commencement of treatment. It is for that reason that many major hospi- tals that maintain trauma centers for treating these types of severe injuries also employ helicopters as air ambulances to speed the injured to their treatment rooms in the short- est amount of time. Yet a year-long investigation by the Tampa Bay Times of fees charged by trauma cen- ters in the state has found that Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which has recently opened six for-profit trauma centers in the state and wants to open four more, has a different interpretation of "golden hour." For this company, the centers are an opportunity to levy outrageous and unjustified charges against patients, even when the injuries, while initially thought to be serious, were not that significant once examined in the hospital. According to the Times investigation, the trauma fee — first allowed in 2002 as a way OPINION

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