HEALTH CARE; the Front Lines

Article excerpt

So, government makes sense? Then someone should explain why taxpayers are shelling out millions to buy Viagra for guys who want to have fun, while the state's trauma centers, which save lives daily, are dwindling away for lack of funds.

Trauma centers are the top-of-the-line emergency care facilities, for the worst cases.

Once there were 50 trauma centers in Florida when the system was created in 1982. Now there are 20. Operators say they need $126 million from the state, in recurring funds to make up for nonreimbursed care.

Northeast Florida is the Bermuda Triangle of emergency care, Shands Jacksonville officials say.

Anyone critically injured in 27 counties is likely to wind up at Shands. No other part of the state has such a wide area of coverage.

Also, counties outside Jacksonville do not pay fully their share of the expense, leaving it to local and state taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Trauma centers do not perform a "wallet biopsy. …