Nicklaus Children's Hospital sues Florida to stop opening of competing trauma center

Miami-based Nicklaus Children's Hospital, which operates the only pediatric trauma center in Miami-Dade County, is suing the Florida Health Department over a state law that would enable a competing level 1 trauma center operated by Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, to open in the region without full review, according to the Miami Herald.

Nicklaus Children's — arguing the opening would lead to closure of its trauma center — filed the lawsuit to block Miami-based Kendall Regional Medical Center, which is owned by HCA, from operating as a level 1 trauma center. The state health department is in charge of determining which hospitals meet the requirements to be designated trauma centers.

The lawsuit is challenging a provision in a Florida law passed in March which sought to overhaul the state's trauma center system because so many lawsuits had been filed to block the opening of new level 1 trauma centers. The provision in the statute requires Florida to grant a level 1 trauma designation to any center that had provisional approval before January 2017 but still did not have final approval by December 2017. Kendall Regional was granted provisional verification to operate as a level 1 trauma center in May 2016, but it didn't receive final approval by December 2017, meaning by law, Florida must grant Kendall final approval.

The children's hospital is arguing that the provision in the law violates the state constitution because it was written so narrowly that it amounts to a "special law" for Kendall Regional. Further, the lawsuit claims Kendall's trauma center designation would be permanent without the center having to go through the same scrutiny as other hospitals.

Florida's law allows Kendall Regional "to automatically bypass in-depth review, including a determination of need, and to receive the department’s final approval as a level 1 trauma center without meeting the same requirements and standards, and undergoing the same approval process, as other hospitals," the lawsuit states..

In addition, attorneys representing Nicklaus wrote that the pediatric hospital will "suffer irreparable harm" because of the competition.

"This special law is devastating to the standard of care for the region's children," Narendra Kini, CEO of Nicklaus Children's told the Miami Herald. "Furthermore, this law will only fragment trauma care and decrease pediatric subspecialty expertise, as pediatric trauma centers afford children a better chance at survival."

Kendall Regional and HCA did not respond to the Miami Herald's multiple requests for comment.

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