State OKs new hospital for North Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - UF Health has received permission to open a new hospital just east of Jacksonville International Airport.

The plan to open the 92-bed hospital, already under construction on Max Leggett Parkway near the River City Marketplace, that faced a legal challenge from Memorial Hospital in 2012.  Memorial, part of the Hospital Corporation of America chain, claimed a North Jacksonville hospital was not needed and would worsen a shortage of doctors and nurses. It later dropped that claim.

This week, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration granted the certificate of need to allow UF Health to operate an in-patient facility at the location. 

"This will allow us to get those beds there; allow us to have more service for people in north Jacksonville and southern Georgia," said Russ Armistead, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville.

UF Health began construction of the new, six-story UF Health North while the appeal was heard. The first medical offices in the complex will open early next year and include a 28-bed emergency room.

The full hospital is expected to cost $125 million and open in 2017.

When the hospital is complete, it will include five operating rooms, two endoscopy suites, a catheterization laboratory, interventional radiology, complete diagnostic imaging (including MRI and CT scans), a full laboratory and outpatient services. UF Health said the facility will bring more than 170 new jobs to the Northside.

UF Health officials said the Northside is Jacksonville's fastest-growing area and the only part of the greater Jacksonville area without an acute care hospital.

"This will fill a great need for the community in North Jacksonville, and will also help support the valuable mission of UF Health Jacksonville downtown," said Wayne Marshall, associate vice president of UF Health North.

Not everyone was thrilled with the idea.  Several people told News4Jax they weren't happy that UF Health was opening the facility after they experienced problems with long wait times in the past at UF Heath's existing hospital on 8th Street.

Armstead says the new facility will actually help with wait times by shifting less serious cases to the new hospital.

"It's not unusual for us to have 10 or 20 patients in our emergency room waiting for a bed," Armstead said. "We are actually transferring 92 beds from  8th Street to the north, so we are not adding bed capacity to the Jacksonville metro area.  We are just redistributing them."

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.