A plan to bring new hospitals to Southwest Florida has hit a new hurdle. Health care competitors are trying to block the introduction of proposed hospitals in Estero, even though Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, approved two new hospitals for the area.
LeeHealth is building a multi-purpose medical facility near Coconut Point with the hope of making part of it an in-patient hospital with more than 80 beds. HCA Health Care has also proposed a hospital for the area, which AHCA has approved.
But NHC and Physicians Regional in neighboring Collier County have filed petitions for AHCA to reverse their approval, claiming, in part, that the new hospitals will cause health care costs in the area to rise.
"What I understand is, that they're concerned there will be too many hospitals in the area, and that it will result in reduced patient volume in all the hospitals," said Scotty Wood of the Estero Planning Board. "Personally, I do not agree with that judgment."
"There's an awful lot of demand for hospital services in Estero and Bonita Springs," Wood added. "In season, it can take 30 to 40 minutes for somebody in Estero or Bonita to get to either a hospital to the south, or a hospital to the north. That can be very serious in a life-threatening situation."
It's up to a hearing examiner to recommend to AHCA whether or not the hospitals should go forward. The hearing should take place within the next six months.
"I guess we have to just go through the process, and hopefully we'll get a good outcome," Wood said.
Fox 4 reached out to both NCH and Physicians Regional for comment on their petitions with AHCA. Neither had responded by late Thursday.