ESTERO, Fla. - With the population booming in Estero and Bonita Springs, Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci had hoped to have built a hospital in the area by now.
"There are over 9,000 homes either under permit or being constructed in south Lee County right now," Antonucci said Friday. "We've planned to build a hospital there for quite some time."
Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, denied Lee Health's application - called a "certificate of need" - to build a hospital in southern Lee County in 2013, saying the need wasn't there.
"We disagreed, and we fought that, but the state prevailed," Antonucci said.
A Lee Health facility being built near Coconut Point will have an emergency room and other health services, but could eventually have bed capacity added if Lee Health's certificate of need is approved.
"As we look to the next five, ten, and twenty years, we really believe those beds will be needed in that community," Antonucci said.
Competitor HCA Healthcare recently submitted a certificate of need to build a hospital in an undisclosed location, possibly in south Lee County.
Antonucci said said Lee Health is now re-filing its own certificate with AHCA.
"With the HCA application, it just simply pushed our timeline up," Antonucci said. "We feel with the changing demographics and the change we've seem in the last five years, that we'll have a different outcome this time."
He said the certificate of need process could take anywhere from 18 months to a few years.