After a gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub last summer, the most seriously injured victims were rushed a half-mile to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
There, doctors and nurses in Florida’s busiest trauma center sprang into action treating nearly four dozen patients from the nation’s deadliest mass shooting. They had practiced repeatedly for such an occasion.
“Trauma care is something that you don’t really pay attention to until you need it,” said Dr. Michael Cheatham, a surgeon who was working in the hospital that morning.
Politicians in Tallahassee are paying attention. Republicans are pushing to make it easier for more trauma centers to open, particularly in rural areas, by lifting caps on their number in each part of the state.
They say they want to make the highest level of care available to more Florida residents.
“The bottom line is we need more trauma centers,” said state Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City. “Really what we are trying to focus on is to make sure that we have greater access for people.”
But many trauma doctors, including some who treated the Pulse shooting victims, say that’s a bad idea. They say caps on the number of trauma centers ensure each is filled with highly trained specialists, in densely populated areas where they get plenty of practice treating everything from bullet wounds to car crash injuries.
Critical lawmakers say Republicans are trying to fix something that already works.
“Our system is well-regarded across the nation,” said state Rep. Nick Duran, D-Miami. “So it is difficult for me to understand the reason why we need to bulldoze it.”