FORT WALTON BEACH — Changes could be made soon to the number of certified trauma centers in Northwest Florida and throughout the state.

FORT WALTON BEACH — Changes could be made soon to the number of certified trauma centers in Northwest Florida and throughout the state.

The Florida Department of Health hosted a workshop Friday morning at the Okaloosa County Health Department to gather input about possible changes to the state’s trauma system.

Florida is divided into 19 trauma service areas. Trauma Service Area 1 is comprised of Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. The only certified trauma centers in the area are Sacred Heart Hospital and Baptist Medical Center in Pensacola.

One of the key points that Okaloosa County’s delegation raised Friday was the need for trauma care nearby.

“I can tell you as being a father, a husband, a son, that in the event that there’s something that happens to myself or my family, I want to go to the closest, most appropriate place I can to get the best care, and I don’t want to travel for over an hour,” said Wes Boles, director of emergency services at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. “I don’t want to sit on scene for 20 minutes waiting for an aircraft to come so I can get care. If we have an opportunity to affect the quality of care in the state of Florida, then we have to take many, many variables into consideration.

“Let’s not fight over who gets what and where. Let’s put the patient first,” Boles added.

Friday’s workshop was the seventh in a series of meetings around the state to discuss the trauma system. It also was the first of three workshops in counties without a certified trauma center. The Department of Health will host similar meetings in Collier and Highlands counties later this month.

The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma is expected to present its final report on how to improve the state’s trauma system in the next several months, said Dr. John Armstrong, Florida’s surgeon general and secretary of health.

“This rule-making process really is an opportunity for all of us to work together and move Florida closer to a trauma system that is inclusive, sustainable and integrated for safe and effective care of injured patients and the trauma population,” Armstrong said.

Representatives from Sacred Heart Hospital spoke against having a certified trauma center in Okaloosa County.

“The Panhandle of Florida is well served by trauma centers,” said Genevieve Harper, staff attorney for Sacred Heart Health System. “In TSA 1, we have two Level II trauma centers and one pediatric trauma center for a population of approximately 700,000. There is no evidence of a lack of access to a trauma center.”

Harper said Sacred Heart’s patient outcome numbers were better than the state average, and if the region really needed another trauma center its numbers would be lower.

he also argued that a trauma center in Okaloosa would take four to five years to fully mature, and it could decrease the chances of Bay County’s new trauma center becoming fully effective by pulling patients from there.

“Redundancies in the trauma system is something we want to avoid because low patient volume will decrease quality of care we can give to our patients, and increased cost will be passed along to our community,” Harper said.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley said a local certified trauma center is greatly needed. Ashley said having the closest center in Escambia County takes time away from his deputies and investigators when they must travel there for follow-up investigations.

Ashley said there were other, more important reasons to have a trauma center close by.

“I’ve had three deputies killed in the line of duty, shot to death, in the last three years,” Ashley said. “I’m not a doctor. I don’t know if we could have saved them or not, but having the ability to get them to a trauma center quicker certainly weighs on my mind.”

Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.