Bradenton, Florida - Since Blake Medical Trauma Center opened nearly three years ago, it's treated more than 2,600 patients who did not have to make the trip into Tampa or St. Petersburg
Mike Whiddon says that extra time saved on the ground and in the air is priceless. "It means [a difference of] life-and-death," he says.
While Blake Trauma Center's doctors and nurses battle saving lives, Blake is one of three trauma centers in a legal battle. A lawsuit by Tampa General Hospital, St. Joe's and Bayfront Medical Center says the state used outdated rules to approve their openings.
A bill in the Florida Legislature that would have grandfathered Blake and the two other trauma centers failed. Still, some say there's hope they can settle out of court.
"We think we can come together and resolve this litigation involving those trauma centers," says Ron Bartlett, spokesperson for Safety Net Hospital Alliance.
Realistically, can all three sides agree to grandfather the three trauma centers, including Blake? TGH says it's too early to comment. A spokesperson for St. Joe's says their position remains the same
"To add additional trauma centers is to dilute the system. It's more important to get to a center that has experience in the ability to care for you in an urgent situation than it is to go to the closest hospital. Trauma Centers are unique, they have specialized teams that have practice and experience and are the best choice in a traumatic injury," says Lisa Patterson, spokesperson for St. Joe's.
Some people in Manatee County think this battle is not over healthcare, but over money.
"Stop worrying about your money and your pocketbook, start worrying about people and the public health," says Whiddon.
Blake is operated by HCA, a for-profit hospital chain. According to USA Today, HCA charges patients three to four times higher trauma fees than the state average of $7,000 in 2012.
TGH and St. Joe's are not-for-profit.
Lisa Patterson says, "We're not in business for making money. We're in business for saving lives of the people in our community."
Blake medical officials say they will continue to fight the legal battle to remain open.
This following is a statement from Blake Medical officials and spokesperson Melissa Morgan:
We are certainly disappointed that the legislative session ended without much needed trauma legislation. Trauma patients throughout Florida that receive treatment at trauma centers such as the one at Blake Medical Center would have benefited from the creation of a foundation for a 21st Century statewide trauma system. Our trauma center has had the opportunity to serve Manatee, Sarasota, and DeSoto Counties for almost three years now, providing lifesaving trauma care to over 2,600 trauma patients. We will continue to fight in the division of administrative hearings, the courts and the legislature to ensure that our trauma center remains open for the citizens and visitors in these communities.