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Hospitals battle over Gulf Coast

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  • | 12:53 p.m. July 1, 2011
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The Gulf Coast is at the heart of a battle between some of the state's biggest hospital operators over where a trauma center can be built.

On one side is Nashville-based HCA. The company runs more than 40 hospitals in Florida, including Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Orange Park Medical Center outside Jacksonville. HCA previously announced plans to open trauma centers at those hospitals, pending approval from the state Department of Health.

Attorneys for HCA argue that the trauma centers should be approved because the statute behind the approval process is based on patient needs, according to a report in the News Service of Florida. That statute, passed in 1992, puts the onus on the hospital to prove there's a need, and just as important, that it has the resources and employees to handle the need.

But four hospitals that already have trauma centers in the areas HCA targets have asked a state administrative law judge to block HCA's proposal.

Attorneys for those hospitals — Tampa General, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and Shands Jacksonville — contend the 1992 rule is outdated, the news service reports.

For example, attorneys say the increase in the use of trauma helicopters wasn't factored into the original statute.

A hearing on the case in front of Judge W. David Watkins began June 27. The hearing is expected to last at least until July 1.


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