LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Changes could be coming to health care facilities in Southwest Florida and across the state, if a proposed bill passes through the legislative session.
“We are concerned about the bill deregulating certificate of need process for hospitals,” said Dr. Lawrence Antonucci, Lee Health President and CEO.
Since 1973 Florida hospitals have been regulated by "Certificate of Need". The Florida Hospital Association says that was created to make sure new hospital facilities are only approved because of community need.
As written, Senate Bill 1712, would in part “provide an exception from certificate of need review requirements for the construction or establishment of a general hospital and the conversion of a specialty hospital to a general hospital.”
“If passed would open up our community to any type of small specialty hospital that could attract paying patients away from us and impede our ability to take care of those who can’t afford our care,” said Dr. Antonucci.
Lee health is a safety net provider, meaning they take care of everyone regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.
Dr. Antonucci says if paying patients stop receiving care from lee health and go to new hospitals instead, lee health would need funding, “go to the county, go to the people to require taxes to support our hospital and we don’t want to do that, we want to operate strictly on our basis of being able to take care of patients."
This bill is scheduled to go to the senate floor for a vote this week. Fox 4 reached out to Senator Gayle Harrell who introduced this bill and a few of our local district senators who are in favor, they have yet to provide comment.