Judge postpones Ocala trauma center case until July

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On Wednesday, an administrative law judge put off a high-profile case challenging the approval of the Ocala Regional Medical Center trauma center.

UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville filed the challenge scheduled to start May 28; it is now postponed until the end of July.

Judge James H. Peterson III agreed to delay the case because of another case centering on a proposed rule change by Florida Department of Health in approving trauma centers.

Shands, joined by other hospitals with longstanding trauma centers, have challenged the validity of the suggested rule, with a hearing scheduled to end May 22 in that case.

Documents filed Tuesday shows all sides agreeing to postpone the Ocala Regional hearing until the outcome of the other case is known. The document, signed by attorneys representing Ocala Regional, says, “If the proposed rule is upheld, the issues remaining in the current (Ocala) controversy will narrow significantly.”

The rescheduled hearing would begin July 28, possibly lasting until Aug. 5.

The Ocala case is one of an ongoing series of legal battles over 2011 and 2012 DOH decisions allowing trauma centers to open at Ocala Regional, the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Blake Medical Center in Manatee County.

Judges ruled the DOH used an invalid rule when approving the new trauma centers, which prompted litigation that could possibly jeopardize the facilities’ continued operation. Hospitals in the Tampa Bay with existing trauma centers joined UF Health Shands in filing the challenges.

Lawmakers attempted several bills to ensure the disputed trauma facilities stay open, but the bills failed to make it by the end of the legislative session.

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.