2 rival healthcare providers to build hospitals in same Florida city: 9 notes

After a nine-month process, an administrative law judge approved construction proposals from two rival healthcare organizations — clearing the way for both providers to build a hospital in Venice, Fla., according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Here are nine things to know.

1. The law judge approved Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial's proposal for a 90-bed hospital and Venice Regional Bayfront Health's proposal for a 210-bed replacement facility.

2. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration previously approved the construction projects for both organizations in December 2016. Less than a month after state approval, both healthcare organizations submitted a challenge against the other's proposal.

3. The hearing about the projects took place in summer 2017, with weeks of testimony and more than 180 lengthy legal filings from each side. The judge's ruling ended the nine-month legal battle.

4. In an 89-page order, Judge W. David Watkins upheld the state agency's decision to approve both applications.

5. In his ruling, Mr. Watkins wrote that Sarasota Memorial's evidence pointed to a need for the 90-bed hospital "based on the proposed service area's growing population, SMH's existing patient base in the proposed service area, and the need to improve geographic and financial access for service area residents who are currently traveling great distances to access inpatient services at the SMH main campus."

6. Additionally, Mr. Watkins said Venice Regional's project will allow for additional services in Venice, including a heart valve replacement program and enhanced neurosurgical and stroke care.

7. Both systems released statements about being pleased to move forward with construction.

8. The judge's decision sends the case back to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration for final approval. The state agency is expected to affirm its earlier approval.

9. The battle between the two systems over care delivery in south Sarasota County has been publicized for more than five years, according to the report. The saga began when Sarasota Memorial moved to open an urgent care facility a mile from Venice Regional.

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