The dispositive issue in this case is whether the Bureau of Community Medical Facilities Planning of Department of Health & Rehabilitative Service (the Bureau) is bound by time limitations set forth by the laws of the United States and the State of Florida, and by its own regulations.
Petitioners, Samson and Loebenberg, seek timely review of the final agency action of the Bureau in denying their application for a certificate of need for the construction of a 200-bed hospital in the Bayonet Point Community, Pasco County. The respondent, Community Hospital of New Port Richey, Pasco County, opposed the issuance of a certificate of need to the petitioners and, on that basis, was allowed to intervene in this cause. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the final order of the Bureau and mandate the issuance of the certificate of need to the petitioners.
The record indicates that the Trustees of the Florida West Coast Health Planning Council, Inc.,
On February 19 and 20, 1976, the State Hospital Advisory Council (S.H.A.C.)
At the conclusion of its meeting, S.H.A.C. voted on two motions to recommend approval of the application and one to deny: each failing by four to four tie votes. A subcommittee of two each approving and disapproving members was chosen to accompany Forehand, the manager of the Bureau, on an on-site inspection for additional fact finding. While discussing the task of the subcommittee, several members of the council evidenced concern that they secure an extension of time from the petitioners less they not return a recommendation to Forehand prior to March 1, 1976.
Thereafter, in a letter dated May 11, 1976, the Chairman of the on-site inspection subcommittee informed the Chairman of S.H.A.C. that, based upon the May 3 and 4, 1976 survey, it was the subcommittee's unanimous decision that the application be denied.
In a letter dated May 18, 1976, petitioners made demand upon Forehand to issue a certificate of need for the Bureau's failure to render a timely decision by May 1, 1976.
Thereafter, in a memorandum dated May 21, 1976, Chamlis recounted to Forehand the terms of the oral extension and expressed
In a letter dated May 21, 1976, the Chairman of S.H.A.C. reported to Forehand that the majority of S.H.A.C. had, by letter, concurred in the subcommittee's recommended denial.
On May 24, 1976, Forehand wrote petitioners advising them of his denial of their application. Thereafter, petitioners made their timely demand for administrative review pursuant to Chapter 120, Florida Statutes.
At the administrative hearing, the Bureau stipulated that the petitioners had complied with state law and were entitled to a certificate of need as defined in Chapter 381, Florida Statutes (1975). Thus, it was stipulated that the hearing would focus on whether the petitioners had complied with Section 1122 of Social Security Act, as added by Section 221(a), Public Law 92-603, and were, therefore, deserving of a certificate.
On October 12, 1976, the hearing officer entered his order finding, among others, that the Bureau had, by written stipulation and statements of counsel, admitted that it failed to grant or deny petitioners' application within the time period required by Subsection 381.494(6), Florida Statutes (1975), and Subsection 10I-1.03(a)(5), Florida Administrative Code.
Lastly, the hearing officer concluded that the failure of the respondent to render its decision on the application within the time constraints imposed by the applicable federal rules and regulations had the effect of a determination that the proposed capital expenditure was in conformity with the pertinent standards, criteria and plans. The hearing officer, accordingly, recommended approval of the application.
Following the entry of the hearing officer's order, the Bureau and the Intervenor filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari, which was dismissed by this Court for want of jurisdiction.
On January 10, 1977, the Bureau, through its manager, Forehand, entered its final agency order rejecting certain conclusions of fact and law set forth in the hearing officer's order finding and concluding that:
There exists an agreement between the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and the State of Florida to carry out
Thus, by federal regulation and by the terms of the agreement that it entered into, the Bureau was bound in such situations to either: 1) Provide written notification that the proposed capital expenditure was in conformity with the applicable standards and criteria; 2) provide written notification that it would not review the proposed capital expenditure, which would have the effect of a favorable review; or 3) provide written notice that the proposed capital expenditure did not conform to the applicable standards and criteria.
Viewing the record in a manner most favorable to the Bureau and assuming without deciding that the petitioners' verbal extension to May 1, 1976, was valid, it is readily apparent that the Bureau failed to provide written notification of its intentions by that date, which failure has the effect of a favorable determination.
We hold that, pursuant to Section 1122 of Social Security Act, as added by Section 221(a), Public Law 92-603, Chapter 381.494 (6)(c), Florida Statutes (1975),
Section 120.57(1)(b)(9), Florida Statutes (1975), provides that the agency in its final order may reject or modify the conclusions of law and interpretations of administrative rules in the recommended order, but may not reject or modify the findings of fact unless the agency first determines from review of the complete record that the findings of fact were not based upon competent substantial evidence or that the proceedings
Upon our review of the entire record in this case, we hold that the Bureau erred in modifying the recommended order of the hearing officer. While the Bureau rejected and modified the hearing officer's recommended order with substituted findings, we are of the conclusion that the factual issues surrounding the order and the modified order were susceptible of ordinary methods of proof not of the type in which the Bureau may rightfully claim special insight, and that the record supports the findings of the hearing officer. McDonald v. Dept. of Banking and Finance, 346 So.2d 569 at 579 (Fla. 1st DCA 1977).
The Order appealed from is reversed with directions that the hearing officer's recommended final order be entered in lieu thereof.
SMITH, Acting Chief Judge, and ERVIN, J., concur.
The Bureau subsequently repealed this rule, effective January 1, 1977. Rule 10I-1.03.