Florida needs to be prepared for the worst

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This 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 this reminds us that we, as Americans, need to and should be prepared for mass casualty incidents. Yesterday, Senate Bill 966, which supports local, accessible trauma care in Florida, passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee moving Florida one step closer to being prepared for untold tragedies with traumatic injuries.

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, which have the capacity and training that is needed for an event with mass casualties, such as the heart-wrenching tragedy that occurred this week. Over 170 individuals, many with life-threatening, severe injuries, were brought to five of the seven trauma centers in Boston. These trauma centers, 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. The surgeons and staff didn’t just perform miracles; they are specifically trained and have 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 – it was the heroic efforts of volunteers, other marathon watchers, and on-the-scene nurses, doctors, and first responders that worked together as a community.

Another tragedy occurred this week in West, Texas when a fertilizer plant exploded, injuring more than 160 residents and with 12 fatalities confirmed so far and up to 40 believed dead. Many of the injured were taken to a Level II trauma center at the Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, Texas – about twenty miles to the south. Like Boston, the residents of West, Texas were very lucky to have at least one trauma center in their area, ready to treat and care for the number of those injured in the area.

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 most prepare for these unforeseeable incidents. What we should be asking, is whether the current trauma system network stands prepared for tragedies such as the ones we have seen this week.  I am of the opinion that there is room for improvement in Florida.

Take for example the trauma center at Orlando Regional Medical Center, the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Central Florida servicing more than 15 counties. This trauma center is in high demand – due to the population size and the tourism industry which brings millions of visitors to Orlando.  Additionally, if Disney World, the main tourist attraction in our area were to have a major incident where many people were injured, the area would be unable to treat that many people, as the existing trauma centers would be filled beyond capacity. There is a great need for another trauma center in this area, and recently Osceola Regional Medical Center applied for Level II Trauma Center privileges but denied due to other hospitals’ concern for losing business.

Fortunately, Florida legislators have the right idea with the recently passed Senate Bill 966, which allows hospitals in the state to be designated as trauma centers by meeting the national American College of Surgeons’ standards. 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. Not only have studies found that a patient is 25 percent more likely to survive a traumatic injury when treated in a trauma center, but studies have also found the survival rate increases when patients are treated within the “golden hour.” Having more trauma centers in Florida, in the appropriate places, will ensure that 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.

— Via Colonel Craig Aldrich, Clay County Sheriff’s office, Chief of Staff

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.