Tenet-Scripps hospital cleared for building despite community critics

State regulators approved Tenet Healthcare's request to build a new hospital with Scripps Florida and Florida Atlantic University, despite challenges from community critics, including HCA's Columbia Hospital and Jupiter Medical Center, who say the area has enough hospitals already. Although the state gave preliminary approval, the deal is likely to be caught up in litigation for years, reports the South Florida Business Journal.

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration granted the hospital a certificate of need, while acknowledging that area hospitals are not full to capacity; the average occupancy for nearby hospitals was 54 percent in 2010, reports The Palm Beach Post. The Agency for Health Care Administration said Tenet must commit to its teaching and research initiatives.

"There is no need for an additional small community hospital that offers basic services," wrote state reviewers James B. McLemore and Jeffrey N. Gregg, chief of AHCA's Bureau of Health Facility Regulation. "The coalition of organizations associated with the proposed facility must work together on an ongoing basis to ensure that the population gains access to services that it would otherwise not have."

The planned $120-million hospital in Palm Beach Gardens, tentatively named the Florida Regional Medical Center, will dedicate 14 percent of its space to academic and research purposes, according to South Florida Business Journal. It will include, at first, 80 beds but will grow to 200 beds.

HCA's Columbia Hospital in West Palm Beach and Jupiter Medical Center have filed papers to legally challenge the state approval.

"When a corporation like Tenet, which controls 60 percent of the hospital market in northern Palm Beach County, is allowed to expand even further, you don't get more competition; you get a monopoly," Joseph Taddeo, chairman of the Jupiter Medical Center's board of trustees, wrote in a Palm Beach Post opinion article. "Without competition, Tenet could demand higher rates with managed-care companies, driving up the cost of your health care."

Supporters of the deal, however, say the new hospital will offer the community a biotech research hub.

"What we need to do in biotech is we need to be a place where people will have to be, rather than want to be. And this is part of that equation. So I'm very excited about it, plus the jobs that will provide," Palm Beach Gardens Mayor David Levy said in a CBS12 News report.

To learn more:
- read the South Florida Business Journal article
- read the Palm Beach Post news article and opinion article
- here's the CBS12 News report

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