Trauma Centers Looking for Funding to Stay Open

A lack of dedicated state funding has forced 30 centers to close in the last two decades and the remaining 20 face serious financial problems. The centers are now looking to increased traffic fines to keep them open for business.

Stephanie Murray was riding down I-95 in her mother's car in 1998 when the unthinkable happened.

"A three-foot, 17-pound metal rod came through our windshield and pinned me to the seat, missing my heart, my aorta, but it went through my lung and pinned me to the front seat that I was sitting in," says Stephanie.

Specialists at one of the 20 trauma centers in the state cut the steel rod and saved Stephanie's life, now the centers say they need state support to stay in business.

"Centers are threatening to close, threatening to close because of the difficulty in maintaining the centers, the cost of the centers, maintaining the physicians staff," says Dr. Lawrence Lottenber of Shands Hospital.

Because car crashes account for half of all the trauma center visits, a coalition of the centers say red light runners and bad drivers should help defray the costs. They have legislative support.

“Twenty dollar increase for non movers, $50 for movers, $500 for the criminals, DUI, refusal to blow in the breathalyzer," says Rep. Irv Slosberg.

Those who don't use seat belts would also be targeted for higher fines. Merlee County sheriff’s helicopter pilot Lonnie Carson was presumed dead when his helicopter crashed. He survived only because a trauma center was close by

"You can be driving home, fall down some stairs, riding a bicycle. The damage that was done to me, can happen to anybody," says Capt. Carson.

Twenty-nine thousand people were treated in Florida trauma centers last year. The trauma centers say they need about $120 million from the state to do their job right, but they say they can get by on about $80 million. Any less, and some of those trauma centers may have to close their doors.