Judge rules against Shands' Northside hospital

UF&Shands officials plan to build medical center in spite of ruling

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite a state judge's ruling that Shands Jacksonville Medical Center did not prove a need for a new 100-bed satellite hospital in northern Duval County, hospital officials announced Monday construction on its north campus medical complex will begin.

Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins issued a 60-page decision Friday that recommended the state Agency for Health Care Administration turn down what is known as a "certificate of need" for the planned hospital near Jacksonville International Airport. Watkins ruled in favor of Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, which challenged the project after AHCA in December 2011 gave preliminary approval to the certificate of need.

"Shands Jacksonville failed to persuasively establish need for its proposed satellite hospital,'' Watkins wrote. "Any improvements in geographic access, including access to emergency services, would be modest at best. On the other hand, the approval of yet a third new hospital (two others already are planned in the Jacksonville area), in an already competitive market, would further heighten the competition for both patients and hospital personnel, potentially driving up the costs for hospital services."

Shands Jacksonville has argued that the project would improve patient access to care, at least in part because it would serve an area that doesn't have a hospital. Also, with Shands Jacksonville's downtown campus serving large number of indigent patients, opening a satellite would help financially because it would add patients with Medicare coverage and private insurance.

Memorial, which is part of the HCA health-care chain, contended that the Shands Jacksonville project would exacerbate staffing shortages at hospitals and also cause a loss of patients at Memorial.

"While we are disappointed in the court's ruling, we strongly believe that a new health care facility in North Jacksonville is important for the communities of northern Duval County and south Georgia, offering a needed resource closer to where area residents work and live," said Dr. David S. Guzick, president of the UF&Shands Health System.

Construction of Shand's north campus medical office complex is scheduled to begin in spring 2013 and should be completed within a year.  Because of the judge's ruling, it may only be able to offer outpatient services.

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