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(UPDATE) Appeals Court upholds awarding of CON for hospital

Singing River Hospital

Singing River Hospital

BILOXI — Harrison HMA, owners of Gulf Coast Medical Center, has won a lawsuit challenging the state’s approval of its plan to build a new hospital in Biloxi.

The Mississippi State Department of Health issued a certificate of need for the project in 2012. Mississippi requires a CON in a process designed to avoid duplication of health care services and control costs.

The CON was challenged by Singing River Health System, Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and Garden Park Medical Center. A Hinds County judge upheld the CON in 2013.

On appeal, the three hospitals argued the Department of Health erred because Harrison HMA was building a new hospital not replacing or relocating an existing hospital.

The state Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the ruling by the state judge.

Court records show Harrison HMA shut down the Gulf Coast Medical Center in 2008. The hospital had 144 beds, which HMA placed in abeyance.

Three years later, HMA asked the Health Department to approve a replacement and relocation of Gulf Coast Medical Center. HMA planned to spend $133 million to build a 144-bed hospital off Interstate 10 in Biloxi to be named “The Hospital at Cedar Lake.”

The three other Gulf Coast hospitals argued in their lawsuit that HMA was building a new hospital not replacing or relocating an existing hospital. That, they said, required more investigation by the Department of Health than the agency did.

The state auditor’s office plans to review the finances of Singing River Health System, whose administrators recently announced the hospital hasn’t contributed to its employees’ retirement fund since 2009. Now, that fund is running out of money.

Singing River is the county’s second largest employer with 2,400 workers.

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