Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Westside Hospital Faces Flak; Approved Friday, New Facility Is Being Opposed by Local Rivals Baptist and St. Vincent's

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Westside Hospital Faces Flak; Approved Friday, New Facility Is Being Opposed by Local Rivals Baptist and St. Vincent's

Article excerpt


The nation's largest hospital chain has won approval to build the first hospital on Jacksonville's Westside and its third on the First Coast.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration signed off Friday on Nashville-based HCA's plans for an 85-bed facility to be known as the West Jacksonville Medical Center. The announcement sparked immediate legal rumblings from one of the hospital's would-be competitors, St. Vincent's Medical Center.

If built, the $100-$130 million complex will include a 200,000-square-foot medical office building, an emergency department, an obstetrical unit, a cardiac catheterization lab and an intensive-care unit, among other things.

The location remains up in the air, but HCA says it has narrowed down its options to the Cecil Commerce Center and Chaffee Road area. The three-story hospital would be the smallest in Northeast Florida and could open as early as 2012.

"We're obviously very pleased that the state approved the certificate of need application," said Jim Wood, president and CEO of Memorial Hospital, which is owned by HCA. Orange Park Medical Center is the other HCA-owned property on the First Coast.

AHCA placed one condition on HCA in its approval of the project: At least 11.5 percent of the hospital's patients must be on Medicaid or have no way of paying their bills in full.

Wood added, though, that he fully expects the hospital decision to be challenged.

Two of HCA's local rivals, St. Vincent's HealthCare and Baptist Health, have opposed it from the start. Both companies sent deeply researched letters to the state, detailing their opposition.

They, after all, have the most to lose. St. Vincent's Medical Center and Baptist Medical Center Downtown currently own a combined 67 percent market share in the Westside HCA hospital's proposed service area.

Kelly Brockmeier, a St. Vincent's spokeswoman, said Monday the Catholic hospital operator was "disappointed" by AHCA's ruling and "weighing its legal options." A representative for Baptist Health, which runs five hospitals in Northeast Florida, said it was still reviewing the matter and had no immediate comment.

Several community leaders, though, have signaled their support for the project. Among HCA's application documents were 76 letters of support, including one from state Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, who received $2,000 in campaign contributions from HCA in 2008.

He has denied any connection between the contribution and his support for the project.

Another supporter, Charles Moreland, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department's division chief of rescue, said the addition of an emergency room would help save lives when minutes count.

"This just adds to the number of hospital facilities that we can transport patients to," he said. …

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