Hospitals Need Free Enterprise

By Sponholtz, Anne | The Florida Times Union, August 31, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Hospitals Need Free Enterprise

Sponholtz, Anne, The Florida Times Union

Byline: Anne Sponholtz

I must say this business about the hospital turf war that is expected to come to our area makes me pretty darn sick. In case you haven't heard, Orange Park Medical Center wants to expand its facilities, while Baptist hospital and St. Vincent's Medical Center, both in Jacksonville, want a piece of the action in Clay County.

However, building a hospital or even expanding an existing one is apparently no easy process. The hospitals have to take their cases before the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which must give approval for construction of new hospitals in Florida.

And even if that agency gives the thumbs up to one or another facility, the others, according to news reports, will likely have their legal teams lined up and ready to appeal the decision. That not only delays the construction of any new facilities, but also means the hospital or hospitals appealing are ready to spend thousands of bucks to appeal the decision.

I must say this has been a real eye-opener. I figured that if a hospital wanted to come to town and it met all the zoning requirements, it started construction. That's what happens in the drug store business. When CVS builds on one corner, Walgreens builds on the other.

That's competition. That's the American way. Same with the fast-food business.

But hospitals have to go through what sounds like reams and reams of red tape, then appeals, and who knows what else just to get the OK to build in the first place. These are not exactly hospitals that have never been in operation.

As far as I'm concerned -- and this is speaking from spending a good deal of my life over the past two years visiting a lot of medical facilities -- there should be one criterion to having a hospital come to town.

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