Wuesthoff Health Systems, Rockledge, Fla., has applied for state approval to build a 50-bed satellite hospital in nearby Melbourne to provide stiffer competition to rival Health First, a three-hospital system based in Melbourne.
The two not-for-profit hospital systems have been engaged in a public-records battle over one of Health First's hospitals, 128-bed Cape Canaveral (Fla.) Hospital. Wuesthoff officials have been unsuccessful in obtaining documents they believe will help determine if the former public hospital improperly converted to private status in 1985. Wuesthoff wants to buy Cape Canaveral at fair market value. A court hearing is scheduled for October.
Wuesthoff operates 301-bed Wuesthoff Hospital, which is located about 20 miles north of Melbourne in Brevard County on Florida's east coast. Health First owns 491-bed Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne. Cape Canaveral is located about five miles north of Rockledge on an island.
The new satellite facility also would give Wuesthoff entry to South Brevard County, giving payers, insurers and patients a choice other than seeking care at Holmes Regional or driving to Wuesthoff 30 minutes away, said Becky Churney, director of the Central Florida Healthcare Coalition.
"This will provide real managed competition and choice for payers and insurers," Churney said. "Health First almost has a monopolistic situation in Melbourne."
The Central Florida Healthcare Coalition represents 116 companies with 250,000 employees and 750,000 covered lives. The coalition provides employers with detailed quality and utilization information from 14 area hospitals affiliated with the coalition.
Both Wuesthoff and Health First are members of the coalition, Churney said. However, Health First hasn't purchased the recommended quality measuring software the coalition uses to evaluate care, she said.
"We hope Wuesthoff's new facility will spur competition and lead to Health First purchasing the software," Churney said. The software, MedisGroups, was developed by Mediqual Systems, Westborough, Mass.
In its certificate-of-need application, Wuesthoff said it plans to eliminate 100 acute-care beds at its Rockledge campus and relocate 50 of those beds to its satellite facility in Melbourne, a hospital spokesman said.
"Some would say that beds go underutilized in South Brevard, but the truth is that people can't use beds at some hospitals (Holmes Regional) because their insurance plans are locked out of those facilities," said Robert Carman, Wuesthoff's president.