Florida regulatory officials denied Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s application to build a new 100-bed hospital in Naples, Fla.
A Columbia official in Fort Myers said the investor-owned company will appeal the decision and re-submit a modified certificate-of-need application to the state in February.
"The state doesn't want competition in Collier County (Naples)," said Chuck Hall, president of Columbia's Southwest Florida division in Fort Myers. Naples, which is about 20 miles south of Fort Myers, is served by one hospital: 384-bed Naples Community Hospital.
A spokeswoman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which denied the CON request, said Columbia didn't show there was a need for another hospital in the area.
Naples Community had a 1994 occupancy rate of 68%.
"Columbia said there is a need for (a facility to serve) indigent-care and Medicaid patients, but they didn't show in their application that they would meet that need," said agency spokeswoman Sally Berger. "They didn't show that (Naples Community) is not meeting that need."
Hall maintained that the state also ruled against Columbia because it is a for-profit chain.
"They said we don't provide as much community benefits (as not-for-profit hospitals)," he said. "We didn't see any (evidence to substantiate the state's claims)."
In its proposal, Columbia offered to reduce its licensed beds by 50 and transfer 100 from the Fort Myers area, where it owns three hospitals, to the proposed hospital. The hospital would cost $30 million to build, he said.
The last hospital approved in Florida was in 1990 when Hospital Corporation of America won a seven-year CON battle to build 120-bed Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers. Columbia now owns Gulf Coast.
"We weren't surprised by the decision," Hall said. "We recognize this is a lengthy process."
Meanwhile, the state agency also approved a CON application from Atlanta-based Vencor to reopen financially troubled Physicians Community Hospital in St. Petersburg as a long-term-care hospital. Physicians Community, formerly a privately owned, for-profit facility, has been closed for more than a year.
The agency also denied a CON request by Seminole (Fla.) Hospital and Women's Center to convert itself to a long-term-care hospital.
Columbia is expected to acquire Seminole from Community Health Systems later this month.