From the News Service of Florida:
In the latest round in a two-year legal battle, a state appeals court Tuesday heard arguments in a dispute that stems from the Florida Department of Health allowing three hospitals to operate trauma centers.
The arguments before the 1st District Court of Appeal focused on an important, though relatively narrow, issue --- whether four hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas have the legal "standing" to challenge approvals of trauma centers that opened in 2011 at hospitals affiliated with the HCA health-care chain.
But if such standing is granted, it likely would lead to more litigation that could threaten trauma centers at the HCA-affiliated Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County. The third HCA hospital, Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County, opened a trauma center but was later required to shut it down.
The four challengers --- Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and Shands Jacksonville Medical Center --- have long operated trauma centers and argue they would be hurt by the new trauma facilities.
They won an earlier round in the fight when an administrative law judge and the appeals court found that the Department of Health used an invalid rule in reviewing proposed trauma centers. But the agency allowed the Blake, Bayonet Point and Orange Park trauma centers to open in 2011 and later ruled that the other hospitals did not have standing to mount an additional challenge.
Jeffrey Frehn, an attorney for Tampa General and Bayfront, told a three-judge panel Tuesday, that the new facilities would worsen a shortage of trauma physicians and reduce the volume of patients at the longstanding trauma centers.