Despite protests, state says hospital can relocate

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published December 15, 2007

SUN CITY CENTER - Despite the protests of retired residents against the move of their hospital, the state ruled Friday that South Bay Hospital can relocate about 8 miles up the road in Riverview.

In granting preliminary approval for the HCA-owned hospital to rebuild its 112-bed facility on Big Bend Road east of Interstate 75, it denied a competing request by St. Joseph's Hospital to build a facility in the same area.

Both hospitals hoped to serve the swelling population of southeast Hillsborough County. But the state agreed with South Bay's argument that it could handle the boom by relocating closer to the residential growth on a site that would give it room to expand and upgrade its services.

Construction will take about three years, said South Bay chief executive officer Steve Daugherty.

But before work can begin, the state will seek public opinions on its decision, which could take about a year, he said. And St. Joseph's has the option of appealing.

In its 68-page decision, the state Agency for Health Care Administration said the proposal appears to be a "reasonable readjustment," making the best use of limited resources and avoiding duplication.

Community retirees reacted with surprise and disappointment.

The ruling holds South Bay to its commitment to maintain a free-standing emergency room and diagnostic services at its current Sun City Center location and provide shuttle service to the new site.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or 813 661-2441.