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In what may be the most significant turnaround in Tennessee health and business regulation in years, a state medical regulatory agency, designed to look after the best interests of Tennesseans, actually sided with those same Tennesseans over the interests of the business they're supposed to be regulating. The agency in question is the Tennessee Health and Services Development Agency. On Wednesday, the agency denied the HCA hospital chain's request to move a number of neonatal beds from Southern Hills hospital--a facility that serves poor, working class and immigrant families--to StoneCrest Medical Center in wealthy, bucolic Rutherford County. HCA wanted to close the neonatal center at Southern Hills altogether, claiming that they could not find doctors to replace the ones who'd been moved to StoneCrest. But a group of doctors from Medicos Para La Familia, a family practice clinic near Southern Hills, had been trying to reach out to HCA for months, asking for medical privileges at the hospital. At the hearing, Dr. Conception Martinez, who works at Medicos, said that he'd been shot down repeatedly by HCA when he tried to get his foot in the door at Southern Hills. Advocates for Southern Hills tell me that they think HCA was trying to engage in what they call "medical red lining." They suspect that HCA wanted to close the neonatal center at Southern Hills because many of the patients there are uninsured. StoneCrest patients however are more likely to carry platinum-type insurance and pay up on-time. HCA insists that's not the case, saying that the doctors themselves chose to relocate to StoneCrest. The company also claims that they honestly had no idea that the Medicos doctors were trying to get medical privileges at Southern Hills. It's a moot point now of course, thanks to state medical regulators that for once, did their job. It's worth mentioning that two months ago another state medical board actually green-lighted the closing of the Southern Hills neonatal care center. So I guess it's not all sunshine and roses. And of course the state Board of Medical Examiners is still handing out slaps on the wrist to whoremongers and murderers like a drunken Richard Simmons.


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