Publish Date: 
Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 5:15am

Letter: from Jeffrey L. Susi President/CEO.Indian River Medical Center
Previously, I communicated the concern of Indian River Medical Center regarding the negative impact increased train traffic will have on patients needing emergency services. To date, I am not aware of any effort to address those concerns or alleviate potential adverse health outcomes that will no doubt result as a consequence of delays caused by increased train traffic.

Please allow me to elaborate on our concerns, trying to bring some scale to the conversation. Indian River County’s population is approximately 140,000 with approximately 90,000 or 64% living west of the proposed train tracks. Our community generates 76,000 visits to the emergency room each year with approximately 57,000 visits to Indian River Medical Center and another 19,000 visits to Sebastian River Medical Center. Both hospitals are located east of the train tracks. Assuming the distribution of emergency visits mirror the population, then 48,640 emergency visits to emergency rooms originate from west of the train tracks.

I have read that approximately 20 freight trains, averaging 8,150 ft in length, and 32 high speed trains will travel through Indian River County daily. If the freight trains travel through the populated area at 30 mph, the total time the 20 freight trains will spend on each railroad crossing will be approximately 61 minutes. If the crossing is closed for one additional minute (time before crossing plus time after crossing) then the total downtime for each railroad crossing will be 81 minutes. If the high speed trains add another 90 seconds for each of 32 trains, that will add another 48 minutes of downtime for a total of over 2 hours per day, excluding any downtime for maintenance or other delays.

If you round down to 2 hours downtime over a 24 hour period, then just over 8% of each day will be delayed because of train traffic. That may not seem like much, but it would translate to 8% of 48,640 emergency visits or 3,891 emergency visits experiencing a delay in transport. While not all emergency visits are true emergencies, it would be safe to assume that 5% or 194 critical emergency visits per year would be adversely impacted by the proposed increase of train travel on the current tracks. Everyone knows that time is of the essence in treatment of true emergency situations. The current plans for All Aboard Florida are simply not acceptable without addressing the adverse impact on health for the people living in Indian River County.

In healthcare two prime examples of delays in care is related to the treatment of heart attack and stroke patients. If treatment is not delivered within 60 minutes, for a heart patient, heart muscle dies. In the case of stroke patients, care in needed with 180 minutes or permanent damage can occur. Every minute counts.

What can be done to avoid adverse impact to the health of Indian River County citizens? Abandoning the project all together would be the simplest solution, but that is unlikely. Other options would be to build multiple overpasses to allow east-west travel to be uninterrupted by train travel or move the proposed train travel west of the majority of the population, avoiding delays for most emergency travel. Moving the tracks west of I-95 would be a significant improvement and following the Florida Turnpike would be the best solution for Indian River County.

I sincerely hope you will take into consideration the significant adverse impact your current plans have on emergency care in Indian River County and adjust your plans to drastically reduce or eliminate the damage that might otherwise occur.

Jeffrey L. Susi President/CEO
Indian River Medical Center