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Updated: 4/18/2012 11:41 pm
ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- In a medical emergency, everyone hopes they'll be taken the nearest hospital, but Action News investigates whether local patients are being transported further away for another purpose.

We're getting your questions answered to make sure victims aren't being taken to hospitals that are farther away.

"I describe trauma as controlled chaos," said Trauma Medical Director Dr. Bruce Walsh. He knows in trauma cases, every second counts. "The sooner they get to trauma, the better the outcome will be."

That's why Action News started asking questions. We noticed that more trauma patients, like the man shot outside a Southside Arby's earlier this month, were going to Orange Park Medical Center. Then we found out the hospital did a 19 million dollar upgrade, in part, to treat more trauma patients.

But it still had us asking questions. We asked Dr. Walsh if they have to see a certain number of patients every year. "Yes, we have to see at least 250 patients a year," said Dr. Walsh. We then asked if patients were coming from further distances to meet that number. "No and it's not really a competition with Shands," said Dr. Walsh.

The hospital has to treat a certain number of patients in order to meet the state's guideline to become a full level two trauma hospital. There are also guidelines for where medical personnel take patients. "If a patient meets the criteria, they need to be taken to the nearest center," said Dr. Walsh.

We found out, nearly 40 patients in Duval County were transported to OP Medical this year.  The director says they're not trying to take anything away from UF and Shands Jacksonville. They just want to make sure the community is covered. "Making trauma care more available to the community," said Dr. Walsh.

There are also other factors that weigh into an EMS person's decision on what hospital to take a patient too. One of the big factors is whether the ER can handle the case or if it's full with other cases. OP Medical has treated about 400 trauma cases this year.
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