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Final chapter may be shaping up in hospital networks competition

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The ACHA denial gives South Bay 30 days to file an appeal.

By MELODY JAMESON

Executives at South Bay Hospital and its parent company, Hospital Corporation of America, now are weighing what may be their last option in the years-long contest to win approval for a new facility.

Florida’s Agency on Health Care Administration (AHCA) last week denied 10 exemptions that South Bay and HCA attorneys had pressed in an effort to regain footing lost to the St. Joseph’s Hospital network in a Certificate of Need (CON) competition going back several years. At issue originally was South Bay/HCA’s proposal to build a replacement hospital on Big Bend Road, leaving a limited-services facility on S.R. 674.

The ACHA denial gives South Bay/HCA 30 days to file an appeal, which, if pursued, would take the large medical services provider into a Florida district court.

In response to questions about another South Bay/HCA legal effort, the hospital’s public information office this week would say only that “we are currently reviewing the denial issued by AHCA and have not determined next steps at this time.”

In a prepared statement, Marketing Director Natalia Diaz also noted that “We are disappointed by the final order because it impacts our ability to provide the community with greater access to high quality care.” She went on to point out that South Bay is the only hospital in the county to earn a “Top Performer in Key Quality Measures” accolade from the Joint Commission and emphasized that such recognition means “we have been focusing on the right things.”

It has been a long and twisting journey for both hospital networks going back to 2005 as they have competed for state approvals to build new medical complexes on their respective acreages abutting Big Bend Road, east of I-75. They have been in and out of different courts on first one CON petition and then another as they vied for the necessary go-aheads. At one point in time, both networks had approvals simultaneously as a favorable legal finding for one overlapped state agreement for the other.

Most recently, the two hospitals’ managements have moved in different directions. South Bay/HCA has undertaken interior refurbishing of portions of its facility on S.R. 674, immediately west of Sun City Center, and has become involved in talks with a coalition of parties committed to establishing a senior medical care research, teaching and treatment center in the Sun City Center area. That coalition includes both the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida and local community leaders such as Dr. Pat Crow, retired physician, and Ed Barnes, SCC Community Association president.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s, acting under CON approval, has moved ahead with planning and designing a new, acute care hospital along with free-standing medical offices on the south side of Big Bend Road at Simmons Loop. Lisa Patterson, the hospital network’s public relations director, said this week that ground is to be broken for St. Joseph’s South in October, 2012. The targeted date for its opening is 2015.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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