Clay Today, September 28, 2011

A judge has sided with hospitals in Jacksonville and the Tampa Bay area in their fight to prevent the Department of Health from approving three new trauma centers. Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins found that a nearly two-decade-old rule that the department uses in reviewing proposed trauma centers is invalid. The ruling was released Sept. 23. Shands Jacksonville and the other hospitals challenged the rule as they try to keep hospital-company HCA from opening trauma centers in Clay, Pasco and Manatee counties. If approved, the new facilities — including Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County — likely would divert patients away from already-existing trauma centers at the other hospitals. The case centered on a 1992 rule that outlined a process for approving trauma centers, including carving the state into 19 trauma regions.

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