HCA hospitals ask for new hearings on challenges to two trauma centers

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HCA Health Care-affiliated hospitals are seeking a rehearing over recent Appeals Court rulings which approved challenges to the continued operation two new Florida trauma centers.

Four hospitals — in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville — have waged long-standing legal battles against the Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Bayonet Point Regional Medical Center in Pasco County, both opened in 2011. At issue is the effect newer trauma centers will have on older facilities.

The hospitals maintain the Florida Department of Health allowed the trauma centers to open despite a ruling by an administrative law judge the DOH used an invalid rule when it approved the facilities.

Documents filed Friday by lawyers for the HCA affiliates also requested that the 1st District Court of Appeals offer two questions about the case to the Florida Supreme Court, applying a technique known as certifying questions of “great public importance.”

The DOH also denied an earlier attempt by the four hospitals — Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and UF Health Jacksonville—to challenge the approval. The Department ruled that the hospitals had no legal standing to challenge the approval.

Earlier this month, a three-judge Appeals Court rejected the agency’s position, saying the challenge should be presented to the state Division of Administrative Hearings. HCA attorneys filed documents Fridayseeking a rehearing while the DOH failed to file a similar proposal before last week’s deadline.

“It is inevitable and unavoidable that the opening of a new trauma center will divert some trauma victims to a newly established, closer facility,” said one of the documents. “By the same token, those very trauma victims receive trauma center services more quickly than they would otherwise.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.