With other hospitals fighting the proposal, an administrative law judge Wednesday said state regulators should turn down a request to build a new hospital in Marion County.
Judge R. Bruce McKibben, in a 39-page ruling, said the state Agency for Health Care Administration should deny a key regulatory approval — known as a certificate of need — for a plan by Munroe Regional Medical Center to build a 66-bed hospital. The agency last year gave preliminary approval to the plan, drawing challenges from Ocala Regional Medical Center, Citrus Memorial Hospital and West Marion Community Hospital.
McKibben wrote that the proposed hospital, planned in an area with a large population of senior citizens, received support from several community representatives and emergency-medical workers. But he pointed to other issues, such as a relatively low occupancy rates at Munroe Regional's already-existing hospital in Ocala.
“If this proceeding concerned a `Certificate of Want' rather than a Certificate of Need, petitioners would have proven by a clear preponderance of evidence that many citizens of Marion County, including specifically, EMS personnel and residents of some adult communities, strongly desire a new hospital at the site. … However, `need' for a new hospital involves far more than citizen preferences,” McKibben wrote. “The significant negative impact of a new hospital on existing facilities, especially West Marion and Ocala Regional, coupled with the negative impact on every hospital's ability to find and hire sufficient medical staff (doctors, nurses, specialists), militate against the approval of a new hospital at this time.”
Under administrative law, McKibben's ruling is a recommended order that will go back to the Agency for Health Care Administration for final action.