WESLEY CHAPEL — The Wesley Chapel area moved a step closer to getting its own hospital after a judge upheld a license granted to Adventist Health System and University Community Hospital.
The ruling, issued Oct. 28 by Administrative Law Judge David Maloney, rejected a challenge from rival Baycare, whose request for a license was denied by state officials.
Both companies sought permission to build hospitals along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. UCH and Adventist want to build an 80-bed, $121-million hospital about a mile north of State Road 56 on property that was part of the 5,000 acre Wiregrass Ranch.
Baycare had proposed a 130-bed, $308-million teaching hospital in the Seven Oaks area.
Baycare appealed after the state Agency for Health Care Administration accepted its competitors' bid in June. Coincidentally, Baycare also recently got county permission to build a helipad should it be granted a license.
Also in the mix was Community Hospital in New Port Richey. The hospital, which is moving its operations east to Trinity, argued that Wesley Chapel did not need a new hospital. However, if a hospital were granted, it added, the better proposal was from Adventist and UCH.
Maloney agreed in his 66-page ruling with the state's finding that the joint proposal was superior to Baycare's because it was smaller and more "reasonably sized" to meet the area's needs. It also called "questionable" Baycare's proposed partnership with the University of South Florida as the university had the ability to pull out of the deal.
Officials at Adventist and UCH cheered the decision.
"The goal with this venture is to give Pasco County residents better access to health care, state-of-the-art technology and the latest in research discoveries," Norm Stein, president and CEO of UCH said in a statement. "We're pleased with the court's decision and look forward to continuing our plans to build a new hospital in Wesley Chapel."
A spokeswoman for Baycare could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Officials estimate that once the hospital, to be called Wesley Chapel Medical Center, gets final approval, it could take 18 to 24 months to complete.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.