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HCA Hospitals Favor Trauma Care Proposal

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Orange Park Medical Center

Backing the Florida Department of Health, hospitals in Clay and Palm Beach counties are seeking to intervene in a legal battle about proposed changes to the state's rules for approving new trauma centers.

Orange Park Medical Center and JFK Medical Center — both of which are part of the HCA health-care chain — filed requests Thursday to intervene in the dispute at the state Division of Administrative Hearings. The Department of Health last month began moving forward with a controversial proposal that would change criteria for determining where additional trauma centers can open.

Five major hospitals that have long operated trauma centers — Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg, UF Health Jacksonville and Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers — filed challenges last week, contending that the Department of Health is overstepping its legal authority with the proposal.

HCA in recent years has sought to open trauma centers at several of its Florida hospitals. That has touched off fights with nearby hospitals that already operate trauma centers.

The department this year gave what is known as "provisional" approval to allow Orange Park Medical Center to open a trauma center, which spurred UF Health Jacksonville to pursue a legal challenge separate from the dispute about the new Department of Health proposal. Orange Park Medical Center plans to seek a more-permanent status for its trauma center.

Also, JFK Medical Center, which is in the Palm Beach County community of Atlantis, submitted a letter last month to the Department of Health expressing intent to open a trauma center, according to the hospital's request to intervene in the legal battle.