Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. withdrew its approved certificate-of-need application in Naples, Fla., late last month, allowing competing Cleveland Clinic Florida a chance to get acceptance for its plan to build a 70-bed hospital in Naples.
Columbia agreed to withdraw to stop the lengthy legal battle between the two systems and to launch an open-heart surgery program in Broward County, said Beth Tuttle, a spokeswoman for Columbia's West Coast Florida division.
In January 1997, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration approved Nashville-based Columbia's proposal to build a $73 million, 100-bed hospital in Collier County. At that time, the state denied Cleveland Clinic's proposal to build a $56.8 million facility because it thought Columbia had a better track record with managed care in Florida (Jan. 27, 1997, p. 18).
Since the state's denial, the two systems had been embroiled in a legal battle over the decision. Plus, 434-bed not-for-profit Naples Community Hospital has opposed both systems' proposals, citing low occupancy rates in the county.
In a settlement signed by both systems March 23, Cleveland Clinic agreed to withdraw its CON application for an open-heart surgery center in Broward County and agreed not to oppose the state's decision to allow Columbia to start its open-heart surgery program there.
It also agreed to pay Columbia's legal bills. If Cleveland Clinic's CON is approved by the state within three years, it will pay Columbia $5 million minus Columbia's legal expenses.
In exchange, Columbia agreed not to oppose Cleveland Clinic's effort to build a hospital in Collier County for the next three years and not to apply for a CON to build a hospital in the county.
Columbia's Tuttle said the agreement was made to end the longstanding and costly legal battle and to deliver needed services to the area.
But the battle may not be over for Cleveland Clinic. Naples Community's challenge to the clinic's CON is still pending, with an April 9 hearing set in Tallahassee. State agency spokeswoman Edie Ousely said she expects the hearing to last three weeks.