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Judge Rejects Proposed Rehabilitation Hospital

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

Finding a lack of need, an administrative law judge Thursday called for state regulators to reject a proposed 50-bed rehabilitation hospital in Escambia County.

Judge James H. Peterson III issued a 48-page recommended order calling for the denial of what is known as a “certificate of need” for Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Escambia County, LLC.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration in 2017 issued a preliminary denial of the certificate of need, but Encompass pursued the case in the Division of Administrative Hearings.

Under administrative law, Peterson’s recommended order will now go back to the agency for a final decision.

Certificates of need are a key regulatory approval needed to move forward with such projects as new hospitals or nursing homes. Peterson rejected Encompass’ arguments that a region including Escambia County has a lack of access and choices for patients who need rehabilitation care.

Also, he ruled that approving the new facility could adversely affect rehabilitation hospitals affiliated with West Florida Regional Medical Center and Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.

“Instead of promoting or enhancing quality, approval of the project would add additional pressures on limited staffing resources in District 1 (the region including Escambia County) necessary to maintain current staffing and quality,” Peterson wrote in part of the decision. “The evidence was otherwise insufficient to show that additional competition would stimulate quality or cost efficiency.”