In a settlement with the state of Florida, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has agreed to close 50-bed Destin (Fla.) Hospital and try to sell the facility.
Last month, Florida officials took steps to revoke Destin Hospital's license after a man who was seriously injured in a jet-ski accident on Aug. 3 allegedly was refused treatment at the hospital's emergency department. The man died four days later.
Florida officials have referred the incident to HCFA for investigation into possible violations of the federal "patient-dumping" law. The 1986 law prohibits transferring emergency department patients for economic reasons without providing basic medical screening.
After an investigation by the state Agency for Health Care Administration, an administrative complaint was issued on Aug. 22 that cited the hospital with several violations of hospital licensure law. The complaint alleged that Destin Hospital was not providing emergency or other services as required by Florida law.
But under the settlement, the state will drop its complaint and hold Destin Hospital's license while Columbia/HCA seeks a buyer. Columbia/HCA also agreed to pay the state $10,000 to cover the costs of its investigation. In the agreement, Columbia/HCA disputed the state investigation's conclusions and did not admit any violations of state or federal laws.
"We decided it was easier to do this (agreement) than to spend money in the future fighting it," said Dan Moen, Columbia/HCA's Florida group president.
Mr. Moen said Columbia/HCA, which acquired the hospital a year ago through its merger with Galen Health Care, originally planned to convert it into an outpatient center and emergency walk-in clinic. He said Destin could not economically support a full-service hospital.
Doug Cook, director of the state Agency for Health Care Administration, said Columbia/HCA has until Dec. 31 to find a buyer or the license will be revoked.
The city of Destin, which filed a suit against Columbia/HCA in June to prevent the hospital from closing, is expected to bid for the facility, Mr. Cook said. City officials said their suit was designed to force Columbia/HCA to either resume full service at Destin Hospital or give up its license (June 27, p. 24).
Columbia operates two other hospitals in the area: Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) Medical Center, a 236-bed facility, and 75-bed Twin Cities Hospital in Niceville. Both hospitals are located about 10 miles from Destin.