Florida Hospital in Apopka
ORLANDO –– An appellate court stepped into a legal tussle between hospital groups over which nabs the lucrative right to build a facility in Orange County.
Florida's First District Court of Appeal affirmed a decision by an administrative law judge against one of the hospital groups that failed to receive a "certificate of need" from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).
The case stems from rules and regulations laid down to manage the issuing of the certificates. Losing bidder Orlando Health Central, which runs the not-for-profit Health Central Hospital in Orange County, objected to the agency granting 10 extra days to isssue challenges.
An appellate court affirmed the ruling by the administrative law judge.
Rival hospital groups, Adventist Health System and Central Florida Health Services, were both granted "certificates of need" to allow them to move forward with the development of facilities.
Judge Bradford Thomas, who wrote the unanimous opinion, analyzed whether the agency had, in fact, overstepped its authority by granting extra time for a challenge. The appellate court found, like the administrative judge, that it had not.
The argument centered on whether legislative changes to the rules trumped the agency's administrative powers.
According to court documents, the administrative law judge concluded the agency had overstepped the power granted by the Florida Legislature by allowing the extra 10 days. At the same time, the lawmakers effectively allowed rules "in effect on June 30, 2004, are to remain in effect and enforceable until the agency amends or repeals them." It has not done so.
The appellate court found the legislature enacted a particular section dealing with this issue while leaving in place previous administrative powers vested in the AHCA. On that basis, he affirmed the administrative law judge's finding.