Appeal court rejects move to halt new trauma centers

Jan 18, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on January 19, 2012:

Appeal court rejects move to halt new trauma centers

By Christine Jordan Sexton

An appellate court in Tallahassee threw out appeals from some of the state’s larger safety-net facilities to shut the door on new trauma centers owned and operated by the for-profit chain, Hospital Corp. of America.

In four brief opinions, the 1st District Court of Appeal refused to allow the hospitals to appeal the Department of Health’s “provisional” approval of  several new emergency care centers, including a new $40 million trauma center at Orange Park Medical Center, which has opened. The DOH also had provisionally authorized trauma centers at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson and Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

The 1st District Court of Appeal said the provisional approval letters could not be appealed. The DOH issued provisional approval after Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, Tampa General Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa — which have trauma centers — successfully challenged the DOH’s initial decision to award the new trauma centers to HCA-owned facilities. 

The hospitals argued and an administrative law judge agreed that the underlying rule the DOH used to award the new trauma centers was invalid.

HCA lobbyist Steve Ecenia said the HCA facilities are appealing that ruling. 

Shands is estimated to lose 25 percent of its trauma patients to Orange Park. Tampa General and St. Joseph’s also are worried that the new HCA trauma centers would negatively effect them.

Meanwhile, the DOH subsequently issued provisional approval letters Nov. 18 that allowed the facilities to move ahead. Orange Park actually opened. 

Shands, Tampa General and St Joseph’s appealed the letters to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Wednesday’s ruling does not, however, lay to rest the legal wrangling over the approval letters, said Ecenia, who said the hospitals have asked the DOH for an administrative hearing to contest the approval letters.

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