Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Hospital embargo decision lingers

By Jordan Gentile
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - Objections from doctors and community hospitals may have delayed an expected House committee vote today on a bill that would put a two-year freeze on the construction of new specialty hospitals in Ohio.

The proposed freeze would have allowed experts time to study the impact these physician-owned, single-focus hospitals have on community hospitals. The concern is that specialty hospitals, often in cardiac care or orthopedics, would take the profitable medical procedures away from community hospitals, which must also operate expensive emergency rooms and trauma centers.

"From our perspective we haven't seen anything to support the bill," said Tim Maglione, a lobbyist for the Ohio State Medical Association, a group that supports specialty hospitals, after leaving a private meeting on the bill that ended Tuesday night.

Maglione said a scheduled House Health Committee vote on the bill had been canceled.

The Medical Association contends the state doesn't need a moratorium to study the hospitals.

The Ohio Hospital Association doesn't like a provision that would limit the power of hospital administrators to stop working with doctors who refer patients to competing specialty hospitals. Hospitals want to keep that authority.

Another key undecided issue is when the moratorium would begin. That could be a critical question for a group of Cincinnati cardiologists who have proposed a $50 million heart hospital to open in 2005.

The hospital is a joint venture between doctors of the Ohio Heart Health Center and an arm of the Deaconess Hospital. Lawmakers have discussed a June 30 start date.

More than 90 specialty hospitals operate nationwide.

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