Judge Backs Heart Transplant Program

May 16, 2017

Nicklaus Children's Hospital in South Florida should be allowed to open a pediatric heart-transplant program, despite objections from state regulators and another hospital, an administrative law judge ruled Monday.

In an 85-page recommended order, Judge W. David Watkins said Nicklaus, which is in Miami-Dade County, should receive what is known as a “certificate of need” for the specialized program. The state Agency for Health Care Administration last year issued a preliminary decision to turn down the certificate of need, prompting Nicklaus to take the issue to the Division of Administrative Hearings.

Jackson Memorial Hospital, which is approved to perform pediatric heart transplants, also weighed in against the Nicklaus proposal. But Watkins wrote, in part, that approving a certificate of need for Nicklaus wouldn't harm Jackson Memorial or Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, another South Florida facility authorized to perform pediatric heart transplants.

“(Nicklaus) persuasively established need for its … program and its ability to implement the program in a manner that will ensure high-quality patient care,” Watkins wrote. “The (Nicklaus) program will improve access and availability of (pediatric heart transplants) to patients currently unable to access that service without significantly adversely affecting the … programs at Jackson and DiMaggio. On balance, (Nicklaus) has demonstrated entitlement to its requested CON.”

Under administrative law, the recommended order will go back to the Agency for Health Care Administration for final action.