Rival challenges BayCare bid for new Wesley Chapel hospital

Three AdventHealth hospitals in Pasco are challenging the state's preliminary approval of a new 60-bed hospital in Wesley Chapel
Three AdventHealth hospitals in Pasco are challenging the state's preliminary approval of a new BayCare hospital in Wesley Chapel. Shown is the main entrance to BayCare's St. Joseph's Hospital North on Van Dyke Road in Lutz.  TIMES
Three AdventHealth hospitals in Pasco are challenging the state's preliminary approval of a new BayCare hospital in Wesley Chapel. Shown is the main entrance to BayCare's St. Joseph's Hospital North on Van Dyke Road in Lutz. TIMES
Published January 15

The next stop for BayCare’s bid for a new, 60-bed hospital in Wesley Chapel is a court hearing before an administrative law judge.

The court date, still to be scheduled, comes because AdventHealth’s three Pasco hospitals are challenging the state’s preliminary approval of BayCare’s proposed acute-care hospital.

The Agency for Health Care Administration gave BayCare preliminary authorization for the hospital in early December. AdventHealth, formerly known as Florida Hospital, which operates hospitals in Wesley Chapel, Dade City and Zephyrhills, filed objections on Dec. 26.

The nine-page appeal says BayCare failed to prove a new hospital is needed and that sufficient hospital beds already exist at AdventHealth’s facilities. The company’s three Pasco hospitals total 414 beds and posted a combined occupancy rate of less than 40 percent in 2017, according to the application.

AdventHealth filed similar arguments as part of the application process, but the state still granted preliminary approval for the new hospital. BayCare’s application contended that AdventHealth’s dominant market share limits competition and patient choices in a growing area.

Pasco’s population is projected to grow by nearly 13 percent, to 588,000 people over the next six years, including 136,000 people who will be 65 or older. Within the eight-mile radius around the proposed hospital site, the population is projected to be 191,000 by 2023 including more than 41,000 people 65 or older, the application stated.

Appeals of state permission for new or expanded hospitals are not uncommon and have played out in Pasco County in the past. An administrative law judge required then-Morton Plant North Bay Hospital to remain in New Port Richey, but allowed HCA Community Hospital to relocate to Trinity as Trinity Medical Center in 2004. BayCare lost its own appeal several years later when the state granted permission for what became Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, but rejected BayCare’s application for a 130-bed hospital across the street and to the north.

BayCare’s proposal now is to build a 60-bed hospital on 111-acres it plans to acquire northeast of the future interchange of Interstate 75 and Overpass Road. The land is owned by the Spada family and has been marketed as Wildcat Groves, a proposed employment center with apartments, a grocery store, hotel and other ancillary uses.

It would remain an employment center, with BayCare’s construction providing 300 temporary jobs and 300 permanent jobs at the hospital. BayCare does not plan residential or other commercial development on the site other than “a world-class medical campus,’’ said spokeswoman Lisa Razler.

Typically it would take more than three years to obtain permits, design and build a hospital after receiving final state approval, Razler said previously.

The state Department of Transportation, meanwhile, said it expects to pick a vendor to design and build the new interchange in 2020.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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