TALLAHASSEE — The next-to-last bill approved by the Florida Senate before session adjourned Friday authorized a 10-bed maternity wing at Miami Children's Hospital.
Although the labor-and-delivery unit was not particularly popular among Senate members, HB 1159 passed overwhelming because it contained a host of other member priorities.
The legislation now heads to Gov. Rick Scott's desk for his signature or veto.
Miami Children's says it needs this ability to accommodate mothers who are expected to give birth to babies with serious illnesses.
The hospital argued that the new wing will allow doctors to immediately give sick newborns the attention they need, instead of waiting for them to be driven or flown there.
The ability to save children is what caused Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, to sponsor the measure initially, he said. "That's why I'm passionate about the issue; that's why I fought for it."
Opponents of the legislation in both the House and the Senate argued that nearby hospitals, especially Jackson Memorial, were better equipped to assist mothers with high-risk pregnancies and that there isn't evidence the existing system caused babies harm.
The Senate voted earlier this week to strip the maternity unit out of HB 1159. The House put that language back in Friday before sending it to the Senate for the final vote.
Sens. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, and Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, tried to get the Senate to remove the language again, but their colleagues resisted on the grounds such an action would doom the bill.
Other parts of the bill awarded $500,000 to fund the state's prescription drug database, provided an expedited process to allow a nursing home to be built in the Villages retirement community and created new rules that will allow trauma centers to be built in rural communities.
The bill also creates new rules that require insurance companies to provide the same coverage for orally administered cancer medications, mainly pills, as they would for those received through an IV.
The House insisted on language that delayed the implementation of the new rules and grandfathered in some existing policies, but the Senate concurred.
The bill passed Senate 37-2 after earlier passing the House 103-13.