Lee Memorial Health System learned Frday that the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has denied its application to build an 80-bed hospital in the Bonita Springs/Estero community. The hospital was proposed for 33 acres along Coconut Road between S. Tamiami Trail and Via Coconut Point, adjacent to the Bonita Community Health Center.
"This is unfortunate news for Lee County. A new hospital located in the Bonita Springs/Estero corridor would provide a better distribution of hospital beds for all of Southwest Florida and bring additional capacity that is very much needed during the busy seasonal months," said Jim Nathan, president of Lee Memorial Health System, in a prepared statement. "It would also significantly reduce emergency travel times for the area's residents and improve their access to acute care services."
LMHS plans to file an appeal to the state division of Administrative Hearings. According to Florida Law, the action must be filed with 21 days of the formal notice of the decision.
"This is unfortunate news because we believe the people of south Lee County deserve better access to comprehensive and compassionate care," Nathan said. "We have not received official notice for the reason for the denial, but we do plan to appeal this decision and to fight for this hospital and for our family, friends and neighbors in Bonita Springs and Estero."
Friday's ruling comes after NCH Healthcare System officially challenged LMHS's Certificate of Need application, on the grounds there is no need for additional hospital beds in the community. LMHS's application did not add hospital beds, but requested to de-license some beds at Lee Memorial Hospital on Cleveland Avenue and move them to a new hospital in Bonita/Estero.
South Lee County is one of the fastest growing areas in Lee County and will expand by 2018 to hold nearly a third of the County's total population, officials said. More than one-third of the population of Bonita Springs/Estero is over the age of 65, a group that is in need of hospital care more than the general population.
The Bonita Springs and Estero communities have worked for many years to get a hospital built in their area. They provided a considerable outpouring of support during the CON application process, sending more than 2,200 letters encouraging AHCA's approval. They have repeatedly voiced their concern about how long it takes to get to emergency medicine because there is no hospital in their community, hospital officials said.
LMHS's Certificate of Need application requested the transfer of 80 beds from Lee Memorial Hospital on Cleveland Ave to the new south Lee hospital. Lee Memorial Hospital has licensed beds that are unused because of physical limitations in an aging building. Hospitals must be issued a CON to relocate beds from an existing hospital or to move a hospital more than one mile from its existing site.
Source: Lee Memorial Health System