St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • River restoration project risks snag in Legislature
  • Bills would let hospitals bypass law
  • Shuttle Disaster: Shuttle reliability debated
  • House bill aims to do away with FHSAA
  • Broward man arrested in sex case
  • Legislature: Vision testing for older drivers clears panel
  • Around the state: State to seek land swap with Miccosukee tribe
  • House salutes voucher bill for those serving in military
  • Equal Rights Amendment push renewed

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
    Print story Subscribe to the Times

    Bills would let hospitals bypass law

    Two lawmakers offer legislation to allow two medical facilities to expand without a review required by law, benefiting a GOP donor.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 26, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- Two Tampa Bay area lawmakers are helping one of the state's leading Republican donors bypass a cumbersome and expensive process required by state law to expand a hospital in the middle of the state.

    Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, and Rep. Frank Farkas, R-St. Petersburg, want to allow a hospital near a booming retirement development in Sumter County to grow by 300 percent without applying for a certificate of need with the Agency for Health Care Administration.

    That process, which can take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, is designed to avoid saturating the state with hospital beds, which can increase health care costs.

    The lawmakers say the legislation is needed to provide access to health care in a fast-growing region in the state.

    Both bills will be heard today. Jones will present his bill on the floor of the Senate, Farkas at the House Health Care Committee he heads.

    The two bills also would allow a Flagler County hospital to expand without the normal review, but that's a ruse to make it appear to not benefit one hospital, a local lawmaker said. But the most prominent beneficiary of the legislation would be Gary Morse, who developed an 18,000-acre retirement community that spans three counties and is a director of one of the hospitals seeking expansion.

    The Villages is large enough to have a hospital that shares the name -- Villages Regional Medical Center, which opened last year and is seeking to expand by 300 percent, from 60 beds to 240.

    Morse has clout with state and national lawmakers. He contributed nearly $700,000, in his own name or through his companies, to many Republican candidates, as well as the Republican Party, since 1999. His donation list includes President George W. Bush, Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. President Jim King, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and Jones.

    Morse could not be reached for comment.

    Florida Hospital in Flagler County also would be allowed to add 180 beds from its current capacity of 81 beds. But Rep. Doug Wiles, D-St. Augustine, who represents Flagler County, said the Villages is driving this legislation.

    "It is primarily a bill for Sumter County and the new hospital that has opened near the Villages," Wiles said. "I'm not a big proponent of tearing apart the certificate of need system."

    Wiles said he was unaware the Flagler hospital needed legislative help to expand and worries what this exception would do to the process. He said Flagler was included as a cover to help the Villages hospital.

    Jones, who said he is opposed to the cumbersome hospital review process, acknowledged that Morse will benefit from the bill. But so will residents, who otherwise would have to drive to Ocala or Eustis for medical attention, Jones added.

    Jones said the Villages has no direct competition and the hospital will be a service to the community.

    "It's one of the largest developments in all of Florida -- ranked fourth-largest master planned community in Florida," Jones said, citing Florida Trend magazine. "Clearly this is a unique area where growth is."

    Added Farkas: "It's an access to care issue, as far as we see it. It would take so long to get a replacement hospital or build a new hospital. We are just trying to open the window to all."

    The Florida Hospital Association said that window exists, if they want to play by the same rules as all other hospitals.

    Ralph Glatfelter, a lobbyist for the FHA, said the certificate of need process is designed to keep costs down and maintain quality care throughout the state.

    "I have never heard of a hospital that had been opened for less than seven months that needed a 300 percent increase in bed size," Glatfelter said. "I think that is very unusual."

    -- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

    Print story Subscribe to the Times

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk