New Florida law to aid hospitals build facilities without ‘certificate of need’

Updated: Jun. 29, 2019 at 6:16 PM EDT
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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WWSB) - A new start for the state of Florida is underway starting Monday. One hundred new laws will take effect and one of them is House Bill 21. Governor Ron DeSantis signed this bill into law this week, which will repeal the state’s “certificate of need” approval process to build new hospitals.

It’s a step forward for the City of North Port.

“One of the things that’s top of our legislative priorities is the elimination of the ‘certificate of need’ and to obtain a hospital here in North Port," said William Gunnin, Executive Director for the North Port Area Chamber of Commerce.

At the moment, there are no hospitals in the city except for Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s ER facility. Gunnin says this law will open doors to many, including businesses.

“Those new hospitals will not offer services to our community but also all the businesses that feed of that hospital. When a hospital comes in, you’ll see a lot of businesses come around it,” he said.

We reached out to SMH officials to see if they have plans of expanding to the North Port area once this law becomes effective July 1st. They responded in a statement:

"As the only public and only not-for-profit health system in the region, we are proud of the critical role Sarasota Memorial has served in this community for nearly a century. We have grown from a 32-bed facility in 1925 to a regional medical center with an 839-bed acute care hospital and network of more than dozen outpatient and urgent care centers. We have more than 1,300 credentialed medical staff members and a network of more than 250 primary and specialty care providers that we employ to offset our region’s physician shortage.

"After decades of caring for this community as a single hospital system, we are building a second hospital to serve the growing south county communities. It has taken years of careful forethought and planning, and considerable staffing and financial resources to reach this milestone. We are on track to complete and open that hospital in late 2021.

“Over the past several months, we have shared our plans with North Port city officials and planners. SMH CEO David Verinder has met personally with many members of the North Port City Commission, and has a standing offer to meet with the mayor and others. The city commission also has been invited to share their concerns with our elected governing board at our monthly Hospital Board meeting. The Sarasota County Public Hospital Board and our CEO have repeatedly conveyed our commitment to build a hospital in North Port (on land we own on Sumter Blvd). At this time, we are focused on investing in medical services and infrastructure to recruit and support a medical staff needed to sustain a comprehensive full-service hospital. That includes expanding services at the existing North Port ER & Health Care Center and developing an outpatient medical facility on the property we own in West Villages.”

Meanwhile, North Port officials are hopeful that any hospital will explore a possible facility in the city soon.

“We’re hoping for anybody that’s interested,” said Gunnin.

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