The public, non-profit hospital estimates that it's losing more than $10 million a year reimbursing private physicians on call for emergencies and treating uninsured patients, who make up 25% of the trauma center's 1,000 patients each year.
The trauma center, which serves Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties, receives no public tax support. Unlike emergency rooms that treat a range of ailments from back pain to heart attacks, trauma centers have special equipment and staff to treat life- or limb-threatening injuries.
One key staffing area where the trauma center has problems is neurosurgery. Dr. Andrew Mikulaschek, trauma center director, says that three years ago the hospital worked with nine neurosurgeons -- including five in private practice who worked part time. The hospital employs just one part-time and two full-time neurosurgeons today.
The hospital began supplying medical malpractice coverage to private-practice physicians for their work at the hospital last October. Despite the move, the hospital has not been able to recruit even one neurosurgeon since.
Lee Memorial's trauma center is just one of four statewide that are in critical condition. Orlando Regional Medical Center announced last year that it would lose its status as a trauma center because of similar problems. The five counties it serves reached a deal, which is pending legislative approval, to bail out the center.
A statewide task force, which includes representatives from Florida's 20 trauma centers, is lobbying the Legislature to subsidize costs permanently.
The Senate's Committee on Transportation has proposed "Florida's Driver Responsibility Law," which would increase fines for drivers who have suspended licenses, no insurance, more than six points on their licenses within a 12-month period or been arrested for DUI. And a House bill would increase fines for those who run red lights.
Trauma center advocates want a portion of the increased fines to go to trauma centers. A similar law in Texas passed last year is expected to generate $250 million for trauma care there.
Keith Arnold, Lee Memorial's government relations executive, says the hospital is also asking the Legislature for permission to ask local voters for a 1/4-cent sales tax increase to help fund the trauma center.
Without a permanent funding source, Mikulaschek says, "there is a very distinct possibility that we will have to close" before June.
IN THE NEWS
Lakeland -- The historic Lake Mirror Tower, one of only three high-rises in town, will be converted to a 76-unit apartment building. The nine-story tower, completed in 1935, was once a hotel and more recently a residence for senior citizens. Miami-based Carlisle Group will head up the $12-million reconstruction effort, which is expected to be completed in July.
Lido Key -- Construction is under way on the Beach Residences, a 12-story luxury condo tower being built by Bradenton-based Taylor Woodrow's U.S. Tower Division. The 88 condo units, including eight penthouses, will range from $1 million to $4.5 million. The building will also include a library and a surround sound theater.
Manatee County -- Buffalo, N.Y.-based Benderson Development Co. is moving its headquarters to Manatee County. The private commercial developer operates in 36 states and has about 1,000 employees. About 50 to 75 employees will move with the company, including its president, Randall Benderson, and other top executives.
Naples -- One week after pro football hall of famer Leroy Selmon took a six-week sabbatical as the University of South Florida's athletic director, he was named to the board of Naples-based First National Bancshares of Florida and its subsidiary, First National Bank of Florida. Selmon, who was a defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 10 years, was once vice president of marketing for Barnett Bank in Florida.
The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has opened a 3,000-sq.-ft. satellite office in Naples adjacent to Naples Community Hospital.
St. Petersburg -- All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg plans to build a $270-million hospital two blocks from its current location near downtown. The new building would include 240 beds and a separate ambulatory care center. The hospital plans a five-year capital campaign to raise $75 million. Construction is expected to begin next year, with completion expected by the spring of 2007.
Payless Car Rental has formed exclusive car rental arrangements with Australia's Network Car & Truck Rental, which has 90 locations in Australia, and Germany's Sixt Rent A Car, which owns offices in 50 countries. Payless, a subsidiary of Avalon Global Group, now has more than 1,400 locations in 60 countries.
Chris Parker, co-founder of the Bonefish Grill restaurant chain, was killed in January in a boat accident in Tampa Bay. Parker, 37, launched Bonefish in 2000 in St. Petersburg with Tim Curci. The chain, now owned by Outback Steakhouse Inc., has more than 37 locations in 10 states.
Tampa -- Switch and Data has acquired Philadelphia-based Meridian Telesis, an internet telecommunications and data storage company, for an undisclosed amount. The move gives Switch and Data, a provider of internet connection technology services, 30 new customers.
The city is on the hook for more than $9 million it loaned on behalf of developers of Centro Ybor. The two development companies and a group of German investors say they can't make the loan payments because of lagging sales at the entertainment complex.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Famed glass artist Dale Chihuly has designed a collection of glass art tailored for and commissioned by St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts and the Orlando Museum of Art ["Display of Glass," page 31]. The show marks the first time two museums in Florida have collaborated to feature Chihuly's work at the same time. The exhibition, which was sponsored by the Progress Energy Foundation for an unknown sum, is titled "Chihuly Across Florida" and will run through May 30. The exhibit features selections from some of Chihuly's best-known series, such as Seaforms, Persians, Baskets, Macchia and Venetians. Some of the artwork will remain on permanent display at the museums.