Despite rebuffs from some city officials, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. is hoping to reopen 50-bed Destin (Fla.) Hospital, the closure of which sparked controversy throughout the coastal vacation community last summer.
Columbia officials were rushing to meet a May 16 deadline imposed by the state, which is threatening to revoke the hospital's license.
Columbia is asking the state and city to allow it to reopen Destin under a consolidated license with Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) Medical Center, its flagship facility in the county.
Last week, the Destin City Council rejected the proposal but left the door open if Columbia wanted to make another proposition. The hospital closed last August after state officials claimed it denied care to a seriously injured man.
The state later agreed to give Columbia until Dec. 31, 1994, to find a buyer or relinquish the hospital's license (Sept. 5, 1994, p. 6). That deadline has since been extended twice.
Columbia's hold on the Florida panhandle has been questioned by antitrust experts because of its concentration in Okaloosa County, where it now owns all four hospitals, including Destin.
However, to complete its merger with Healthtrust last month, Columbia told the Federal Trade Commission it would divest one of the facilities, North Okaloosa Medical Center, Crestview. And Columbia agreed to sell Santa Rosa Medical Center, Milton, which is also in the western part of the Florida panhandle. Both were Healthtrust hospitals.
Rather than relinquish the hospital's license, Columbia agreed to sell Destin to Health Management Decisions last December. The arrangement with the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based firm had been welcomed by Destin city officials, who wanted to keep a full-service hospital in the town. However, the deal with Health Management was contingent on Columbia's keeping the Healthtrust hospital in Crestview, a prospect that was erased by the FTC agreement.
"We were working to reopen the hospital," said Scott Hopes, chief executive officer of Health Management, who said he'd invested nearly $300,000 to reopen the facility.