RIVERVIEW — After a six-year legal feud, St. Joseph's Hospital is pushing ahead with its plans to begin construction of a new hospital in October 2012 while South Bay Hospital remains stuck in an appeals court.
Since 2005, St. Joseph's and South Bay in Sun City Center have fought over the rights to build new hospitals on Big Bend Road.
At first, both companies applied to build hospitals in Riverview and were turned down by the state Agency for Health Care Administration. The agency didn't believe there was a community need, especially for two hospitals.
In 2007, both hospitals reapplied to the AHCA. St. Joseph's plan remained unchanged, but South Bay reworked its plan: it would close its hospital in Sun City Center and "relocate" to the Riverview location.
The state wouldn't be adding to the number of hospitals in the area, but South Bay could still expand. The AHCA approved this plan.
Citing population growth and a need for diversity in services, a judge overturned the AHCA's ruling regarding St. Joseph's in 2008. AHCA agreed with the judge and allowed St. Joseph's to build, instead of South Bay.
St. Joseph's appealed the 2007 decision to grant South Bay the certificate of need.
Both hospitals expect to hear the results of the appeal from an administrative law judge in the next couple of weeks, hospital marketing director Natalia Diaz said.
If denied, the hospital doesn't expect to reapply. If it wins the appeal, then it will re-evaluate before making a final decision, Diaz said.
Regardless, it plans to keep its Sun City Center location operational.
"Whether we move or not, we're still committed to the work we're doing here in Sun City," Diaz said.
Meanwhile, officials are finalizing plans for St. Joseph's South, spokeswoman Lisa Patterson said.
The new St. Joseph's South will serve Riverview, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Sun City Center, Wimauma, Lithia, Valrico, Brandon and southeast Tampa.
In the first construction phase, St. Joseph's will build a freestanding outpatient center that will have physician offices, an outreach laboratory and diagnostic imaging. Hospital officials expect to open the 40,000-square-foot building in the first quarter of 2013.
The second construction phase will include a 112-bed hospital and a second medical office building that will connect to the hospital.
Officials plan an early 2015 opening.
Biz Carson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2441.