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New Shands hospital challenged

Shands Jacksonville has been given the approval to open a new branch near the airport.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A plan by Shands Jacksonville Medical Center to build a 100-bed hospital in northern Duval County faces a legal challenge, as a rival hospital says the project is not needed and will worsen a shortage of doctors and nurses.

Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville last month challenged the Agency for Health Care Administration's decision to grant a certificate need -- a key step in the hospital approval process -- for the Shands facility, according to a case filed in the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

Shands Jacksonville operates a major safety-net hospital near downtown Jacksonville that is affiliated with the University of Florida. The additional facility would cost an estimated $125 million and would be on Duval Road, which is near Jacksonville International Airport, according to information on the Shands website.

Documents in the DOAH case indicate that Memorial, which is part of the HCA hospital chain, also objected to the project with the Agency for Health Care Administration. But in a November letter, Shands Jacksonville defended the need for the project.

"SJMC-North (the new hospital) is needed to address the needs of residents of northern Jacksonville, complement the outpatient services already provided by UF & Shands and provide a broader base of patients to sustain the safety net mission of SJMC (Shands Jacksonville Medical Center),'' the letter said.

Shands said Tuesday it plans to begin construction of the new medical complex despite the appeal filed by Memorial Hospital.

"We are, frankly, surprised that Memorial, which is nowhere near the proposed campus, and which will not be affected by the new hospital, would oppose this opportunity to give the citizens of that region a new health care resource," said Dr. David S. Guzick, senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of the UF & Shands Health System.

"We already serve 150,000 people from that area in our current Shands location," Dr. David Guzick with Shands told Channel 4.

In a statement, Memorial Hospital said the the legal challenge is about more than a nurse and doctor shortage.

"There are two new hospitals in the area that have been approved, but not yet constructed and a third hospital is not needed to serve the community's health care needs," read the statement.

People who live on the northside think the fight between the two hospitals is ridiculous.

"I think it's incredible that they try to knock it and not put one on this side of town," said Cornelius Hazzize. "There's a lot of sick people in this area."

"Why shouldn't one be here? We have a great need for a hospital here," said Fathiyyah Muhammad, who also lives on the northside.