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UF Health Seeks $10 Million In State Funding To Upgrade Trauma Center, ER

UF Health

A $10 million funding request by UF Health Jacksonville to help renovate its trauma center and emergency room is getting support from state lawmakers.

Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, and Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, are sponsoring the proposal as the annual legislative session starts Tuesday.

UF Health Chief Financial Officer Dean Cocchi said renovating the 35-year-old trauma center is long overdue.

“We actually have a picture in black-and-white and in color, today. It hasn’t changed from a standpoint of the physical plant,” he said. “So it would basically enable us to modernize the actual areas that we provide this needed care.”

He said UF Health’s was Florida’s first trauma program when it began in 1983. Today, it’s the only Level-1 trauma center in Northeast Florida, meaning the most severely injured patients are transported there.

Related: Mayor Pitches $120 Million for UF Health Jacksonville As Hospital Braces For Other Cuts

The nonprofit hospital’s emergency room and the trauma center see 126,000 and 4,000 patients a year, respectively, Cocchi said.

“Both are solid as far as capacity in a number of years that we’ve seen. We obviously care for the most critically ill, and that basically has been part of our history and our legacy,” he said.   

Cocchi said construction could start as early as July 1.

“We’re prepared to start the project as soon as we’re able to get the funding approved,” said Cocchi.

But the hospital’s is one of 178 health-related proposals totaling more than $220 million requested by senators alone this year, according to the News Service of Florida.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, said he’s been warning members that they could be disappointed given the state’s latest financial outlook.

“It’s going to be a challenge to meet the needs of everything for health care,” he said.

Lawmakers vying to bring tax dollars to their communities have requested funding for more than 2,500 proposals, ranging from education programs to transit needs.

In the House, the proposals total more than $3.13 billion and in the Senate $1.8 billion. Many of the requests, like UF Health’s proposal, have been filed in both chambers.

But most of them likely won’t get included in the budget that House and Senate leaders will finalize near the end of the two-month session.

Abukar Adan is a former WJCT reporter who left the station for other pursuits in August 2019.