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HCA wants trauma center fight bumped to state Supreme Court

From the News Service of Florida:

Hospitals affiliated with the HCA health-care chain are seeking a rehearing in the 1st District Court of Appeal after a ruling this month cleared the way for challenges to the continued operation of trauma centers at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County.

Documents filed Friday also request that the appeals court send two questions about the case to the Florida Supreme Court --- a process known as certifying questions of "great public importance."

Four hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas have waged long-running legal battles against the trauma centers at the HCA hospitals in Manatee and Pasco. The Florida Department of Health allowed the trauma centers to open in 2011, despite a ruling by an administrative law judge that the department had used an invalid rule in approving the facilities.

The department later denied an attempt by the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals to challenge the approvals, saying those hospitals did not have legal standing. But the 1st District Court of Appeal this month rejected the department's position and said the challenges should be heard in the state Division of Administrative Hearings. The Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals --- Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and UF Health Jacksonville --- have long operated trauma centers.

In the documents filed Friday, HCA attorneys took issue with decisions made by a three-judge panel of the appeals court. One of those issues involves the impact of the new trauma centers on the older facilities.

"It is inevitable and unavoidable that the opening of a new trauma center will divert some trauma victims to a newly established, closer facility; by the same token, those very trauma victims receive trauma center services more quickly than they would otherwise,'' one of the documents said. While the HCA hospitals are seeking a rehearing, the Department of Health did not file any similar motions before a Friday deadline, an agency spokesman said in an email.


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Rick Scott's role in Columbia/HCA scandal

The Miami Herald looks today at Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott's role in the Medicaid fraud case at his former company.

``As I have said repeatedly, Columbia/HCA made mistakes, and I take responsibility for what happened on my watch as CEO,'' Scott said in a written statement Friday. He has denied knowing frauds were taking place while he was there, and he was never charged with any crimes.

However, federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal -- specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001.

The doctor payments were among 10 different kinds of fraud identified by the Justice Department in its 10-year probe of the company, records show. Three years after Scott left Columbia/HCA, the company admitted wrongdoing, pleading guilty to 14 felonies -- most committed during Scott's tenure -- in addition to paying two sets of fines totaling $1.7 billion...

Whether or not Scott was aware of his company's questionable conduct, the breadth of the problems raises questions about Scott's leadership, management experts say.

Nell Minow of the Corporate Library, a watchdog group, put it this way: ``Being ignorant of all that doesn't inspire confidence.'' In judging a CEO, she said, ``it's no better to be a schnook than a crook.''

The key question for Scott is whether he can persuade voters that he deserves to be chief executive of Florida while at the same time insisting that he knew nothing about the greatest Medicare fraud in American history as it happened under his nose.


Bunny Hoover

These trauma centers should not be allowed to stay open
They opened using an invalid rule
Rules are rules no matter how rich you are
One day the truth will surface

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