A resolution in the enduring debate over state approval of new trauma centers statewide is once again on hold, as an administrative law judge Friday postponed the latest round of hearings.
The hearing, originally set to begin March 31, was part of the ongoing legal battle filed by hospitals with long running trauma centers, who are in dispute with the Florida Department of Health.
A large number of witnesses and documents to be used in the proceedings led administrative law Judge R. Bruce McKibben to issue a continuance until April 10.
Once begun, the hearing could take up to seven days over the span of a month.
Gainesville’s UF Health Shands Hospital, Tampa General Hospital, Miami-Dade County’s Public Health Trust, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, and Memorial Regional Hospital Broward County and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa filed petitions in March seeking to block a proposed change in the trauma-care rule issued by the DOH in February.
St. Joseph’s requested the delay.
The petitions, filed in the Division of Administrative Hearings, come after almost three years of litigation over the DOH approval of trauma facilities. Facilities operated by the HCA health-care chain since 2011 are under dispute, as well as new ones the company is seeking to start.
Hospitals operating existing trauma centers opposed, saying the DOH approved the trauma centers under an old rule that, which courts later found to be invalid.
As the legal case moves forward, Florida lawmakers are considering two bills that seek to resolve, at least in part, the trauma-center fight.
The bills are HB 7113, on the Monday schedule of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and SB 1276, set for consideration by the Senate Health Policy Committee Tuesday.