Michael Kozar

Northwest Florida Community Hospital Administrator Michael Kozar, at podium, talks to Jackson County Commissioners.

Jackson County Commissioners on Tuesday tabled a decision on whether to honor a request that they send to legislators a letter of support from the board regarding Jackson Hospital’s effort to expand its reach beyond its statutorily set confines, in and around its home base of Marianna, to include the areas of Graceville and Campbellton.

Jackson Hospital CEO James Platt had brought that request, saying that he’s not interested in operating the existing but now-idle Campbellton-Graceville Hospital, which is now owned by the Northwest Florida Community Hospital group.

Saying he thought that Jackson Hospital could offer valuable health care services at some other location, instead, Platt said he thought that Jackson and the neighboring Northwest hospital group could work together as much as possible to avoid overlaps even though he acknowledged they may find themselves in competition from time to time if Jackson’s area of operation were to be expanded.

He said further that Jackson Hospital supports the Northwest Florida Community Hospital’s tentative plan to transition the old hospital in Graceville into a behavioral therapy center. Northwest already operates an ancillary general health care clinic just outside the hospital itself, with that smaller facility also on the grounds.

Platt said Jackson simply wants to explore the possibility of setting up shop to offer some version of one or more traditional primary care facility. He also stressed that Jackson is not seeking any authority to establish any authority to collect taxes in its capacity as a rural health care provider there. But to go to that trouble and expense of looking into to feasibility of providing service, Jackson Hospital first needs authorization to expand its reach, Platt explained.

It would take an act of the legislature, since its district was established and defined by that body many years ago. At a local delegation session held by Sen. George Gainer and Rep. Brad Drake a few days ago, Platt tried to get that ball rolling. The lawmakers said they’d try to push a bill forward if he could obtain a letter of support from the county.

Commissioners, in tabling a decision on whether to provide it, did so on the advice of board attorney Michelle Jordan.

She’d told the board that it could ultimately face some unwanted liability associated with the old Campbellton-Graceville Hospital if they were to take such action at this point, since it could unintentionally embroil them in the continuing legal issue surrounding the bankruptcy proceedings still underway in connection to that old hospital’s previous life. There’s an expectation that the old hospital district under which the Campbellton-Graceville Hospital had operated, but unless circumstances change, that can’t occur until the bankruptcy maters are resolved. And those could take years, Jordan cautioned.

Board members, although some expressed a desire to see Jackson Hospital expand in order to offer that area of the county more health care options closer to home, said they needed to research Jordan’s concerns more deeply before deciding whether to come forward with the letter Platt has requested.

The matter could come before the board again at its next meeting later this month, with information gathered in the deeper study of the matter to be potentially presented. Commissioners asked that both hospitals be part of the discussion process going forward.

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