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Justices decline to take up hospital dispute

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Friday declined to take up an appeal by the state Agency for Health Care Administration in a dispute about whether a Baker County hospital can challenge the approval of a potential competitor in nearby Jacksonville.

Justices issued a brief order saying they would not hear a request from the agency and West Jacksonville Medical Center to overturn a ruling last year by the 1st District Court of Appeal.

The case has focused on whether Baker County's Ed Fraser Memorial Hospital should be able to challenge what is known as a "certificate of need" for the West Jacksonville facility.

Certificates of need are a controversial regulatory process in which the state must approve plans for new and expanded hospitals and other types of health-care facilities.

The Agency for Health Care Administration in 2010 approved a certificate of need for the West Jacksonville hospital.

But under a settlement, the certificate would not become effective until mid-2013 and licensure of the new hospital could happen no earlier than December 2016, according to the appeals-court decision.

Ed Fraser, which could face competition from the new hospital, filed a lawsuit arguing that the agency overstepped its authority in delaying the validity of the certificate of need.

The 1st District Court of Appeal allowed Ed Fraser's challenge to move forward.