JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In a medical emergency, minutes could mean the difference between life or death. The Clay County community is now fighting to revive its trauma unit at Orange Park Medical Center.
The state health department shut down the hospital's level two trauma unit. State inspectors denied its application to continue operations, citing four areas of deficiency including emergency department, acute rehabilitative services, psychosocial services and quality management.
Services local hit-and-run victim, Lorin Leuthold say saved his life.
"I look at life totally different now," Leuthold told Action News. "Everyday is special and it's all because of what Orange Park Medical Center did for me."
Action News first told you about Leuthold in August. Police say he was left to die in a ditch after riding his bicycle along Phillips Highway. A hit-and-run accident sent him to the Clay County hospital in critical condition."
Leuthold says he was devastated to learn the hospital would be losing its trauma unit.
The hospital's CEO, Tom Pentz, says they are appealing the state's decision.
"A lot of people may end up dying just because they can't get to the closest trauma center," said Pentz.
Ambulances are now taking all trauma patients to UF and Shands Jacksonville -- nearly 30 minutes away from Orange Park. Town leaders like the fire and police chiefs pleaded to a panel from the state health department Friday to reinstate the trauma unit, reiterating how crucial the center is to saving lives.
"The question is do they provide adequate trauma services and accreditation to the state of Florida. They don't," said Chad McIntyre.
McIntyre manages the trauma unit at Shands Jacksonville -- which is now the area's only place to care for patients in critical condition.
He says northeast Florida only needs one regional trauma center.
"Everybody's going to say I want a trauma center in my community, that's just not possible," said McIntyre. "If it was feasible, we would have a trauma center on every corner but that's just not realistic."