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Jacksonville Trauma Center Approval Challenged

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

In a continuing escalation of legal fights about new trauma centers, UF Health Jacksonville has challenged a state decision to give preliminary approval to a new trauma facility at a rival hospital.

The challenge, which was sent Tuesday to the state Division of Administrative Hearings, involves a Florida Department of Health decision last month to give what is known as “provisional” approval for a trauma center at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, according to documents filed in the case.

UF Health Jacksonville, which has long operated a trauma center, also has been in a legal battle over a state decision to allow a trauma center to open at Orange Park Medical Center in nearby Clay County.

Memorial and Orange Park Medical Center are part of the HCA health-care chain, which has aggressively moved in recent years to open trauma centers in various parts of the state.

UF Health Jacksonville contends that the Department of Health didn't have the legal authority to approve the Memorial or Orange Park trauma projects because state law caps the number of trauma centers statewide at 44 and places limits in each of 19 regions of the state.

UF Health Jacksonville contends that only one trauma center is authorized in a five-county Northeast Florida region that includes Jacksonville and Clay County.

Lawmakers this spring considered changing the criteria for approving new trauma centers — changes that could have led to more trauma facilities — but the issue did not move forward in the Senate.