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Court of Appeals rules for Harrison HMA in hospital lawsuit

lawsuit11BILOXI — 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 new location was about four miles north of its old facility.

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.

Appeals Court Judge Tyree Irving, writing in the 9-1 decision, that the Department of Health properly followed the law in assessing HMA’s application and its impact on health services along the Gulf Coast. Irving said HMA retained control of the 144 beds from the old hospital and health officials found HMA was relocating the beds and not building a new hospital.

Appeals Judge Virginia Carlton, in a dissent, said Department of Health was not thorough enough in its investigation of HMA’s project.

“HMA’s project requires a large capital investment to build a new hospital facility to provide additional hospital services in that area, to be built at a new location in Biloxi with relicensed beds from a closed hospital, without a determination of whether need exists,” Carlton said.

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