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Northside Hospital Challenges State Over Trauma Center Rejection

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
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The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A St. Petersburg hospital is challenging a state Department of Health decision blocking it from opening a trauma center, the latest in a series of legal battles across the state about trauma facilities.

Northside Hospital filed a challenge this week in the state Division of Administrative Hearings after Department of Health officials on May 1 turned down its application to operate a trauma center.

The Northside proposal has been controversial, with Bayfront Health-St. Petersburg filing a separate case in April arguing that the Department of Health should not process the Northside application because of a state law that limits the numbers of trauma centers statewide and in 19 different regions.

Bayfront, which operates a trauma center, contended that a region comprised of Pinellas and Pasco counties was already at its limit for trauma facilities.

With the Bayfront case pending in the Division of Administrative Hearings, the Department of Health considered the Northside application and denied it for other reasons.

The Northside challenge filed this week said the department pointed to “deficiencies” in the application, but Northside said it should have been approved to operate what is known as a provisional trauma center.

“Northside is immediately placed in the untenable position of carrying the expenses of its developed trauma program, without any offsetting revenue from the delivery and reimbursement of trauma patient care,” the challenge said. “Further, the department's determination not only affects Northside's substantial interests, but the vital medical interests of trauma patients it otherwise would be able to serve and should be serving.”

The department and parts of the hospital industry have repeatedly become embroiled in legal cases in recent years about whether trauma centers should be allowed to open.

The state House this year sought to change criteria for approving trauma centers, but the proposal did not move forward in the Senate. Most of the legal fighting has stemmed from the law that limits the numbers of trauma centers --- and how the department should carry out the law.