Orange Park Medical Center no longer a trauma center

Florida Department of Health says hospital did not meet requirements

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Orange Park Medical Center will no longer be a trauma center because it did not meet the requirements.

The hospital lost its provisional license after inspectors found its standards for approval as a level two trauma center had not been met.

"The provisional trauma center did not meet the standards for verification, and must cease operating as a provisional trauma center immediately," the Florida Department of Health said in a statement. "The Department of Health remains committed to maintaining those standards on behalf of injured patients."

Four of 19 areas noted as deficient were the emergency department, acute rehabilitative services, psychosocial support systems, and quality management.

"Shands Jacksonville (Medical Center) remains a verified level one trauma center within the Trauma Service Area Five to meet the needs of injured patients in Clay County," the statement reads.

Orange Park Medical Center had been operating at a provisional Level II trauma center because the Florida Department of Health found their application acceptable based on a provisional review. Then the department came back for an in-depth review, making an onsite visit to the hospital.

The department says the hospital submitted a response to the report from the site visit, but the review team still determined the hospital didn't meet the standards for approval.

Trauma centers require 15 specific physician specialists, including trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, pediatric specialists, to be on call and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

They must have a burn unit and usually are teaching hospitals. They are required to provide coverage from the same specialists and subspecialists as level one centers, but the time requirements and in-house staff requirements are different.

Those in Clay County say it's a disappointment. They felt comfort knowing they had a trauma center nearby.

"It's peace of mind knowing that it's close by," resident Tina Aguayo said. "So if something major were to happen, it wouldn't take 30 minutes to get to where you need to get to be taken care of, and that can mean life or death."

"We have car crashes and stuff where it would have been great if we had had the trauma unit here, but we have to go all the way to another hospital in Jacksonville that would put other people's lives in danger," resident Ruth Battle said.

Anthony Udekwu, M.D., F.A.C.S, Trauma/Critical Care Surgeon of Orange Park Medical Center, released the following statement in reaction to Thursday's announcement:

"We are very disappointed and surprised that we received notification from the Department of Health denying our provisional status. As customary in the evaluation process, we have been working with the Department to ensure residents of Clay County have local access to trauma care. We intend to appeal this decision and will suspend trauma care operations until the appeal.

"While we disagree with this decision, our commitment remains with the community and the patients we serve. Since we received our provisional status over a year ago, we have cared for more than 1,000 trauma patients, saving countless lives that may not have had the same outcome if we were without this level of care. In fact, our trauma center¹s survival rate is over 95%, which is better than the state of Florida¹s average.

"Our trauma center has been focused on providing life-saving trauma care to patients in a part of the state where there is the most need. Research shows that someone with the most severe, life-threatening injuries has the best chance for survival if he or she receives trauma care within the first 60 minutes of injury. And when this care is received at a specially equipped trauma center, those chances increase by 25%. Before this trauma center opened its doors, Clay County did not have a local trauma center and our trauma patients had to be transported at least a 30 minute drive to downtown Jacksonville for trauma care. When minutes are the difference between life and death, forcing patients to endure lengthy travel costs lives.

"The heavy traffic and population growth we have seen in Northeast Florida has resulted in increased transport times for critical trauma patients to get to the nearest trauma center in downtown Jacksonville. When Shands Jacksonville is not an option because it is too busy, the next closest trauma centers to Orange Park Medical Center are an 80 minute drive to Gainesville or a 120 minute drive to Daytona Beach. Both of these options are well outside of the maximum 60-minute window to give patients lifesaving treatment and the best chance to survive.

"As we all know, this decision impacts not just our hospital community, but it will negatively impact the lives of all those in the Orange Park area. We will continue to work with the Florida Department to provide high quality care to our patients."

Shands Jacksonville Medical Center also released a statement on Thursday's move. It reads:

"Today the Florida Department of Health, in response to its closure of the trauma facility at Orange Park Medical Center, instructed the emergency transport system at Shands Jacksonville (TraumaOne), along with all other EMS providers in our region, to begin sending all trauma patients to Shands Jacksonville.

"It is important to note that today's decision by the Department of Health to close Orange Park Medical Center's trauma center, based on the center's deficiencies, is distinct from the legal challenges that we and other hospitals in Florida have brought, in which several justices have agreed with our view that the state should not approve additional trauma centers until appropriate rules and criteria have been defined. The proliferation of trauma centers without an appropriate needs assessment jeopardizes the ability of any one trauma center to obtain the patient volumes needed in order to develop and remain proficient in the delivery of trauma care, and in the training of the next generation of trauma physicians and nurses.

"It is our view that a regionalized approach to trauma care is the safest and most efficient approach to the delivery of trauma services in Florida. As the region's only Level I trauma center, the goal of Shands Jacksonville has always been, and will continue to be, the welfare of our patients. Providing the best trauma care to the citizens of Northeast Florida is our ultimate objective, and it is something we have done with passion and pride for more than a quarter century."