Fla. could see another CB lawsuit

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Central Medical Equipment Rentals has asked the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) in a six-page protest to return the three bids it awarded the company for its competitive bidding project. Or else, Central Medical will take AHCA to court.

AHCA had initially released a "notice of intent to award" bids to the Coral Gables, Fla.-based Central Medical for regions 9, 10 and 11. Just hours after the notice was released, however, AHCA suspended the awards, and weeks later, it awarded the bids to All-Med Services of Florida (regions 9,11) and Medical Decision Services (region 10) instead.

AHCA says it suspended then pulled the awards after learning the owner of Central Medical, Osvaldo de la Pedraja, was reportedly having his Medicare and Medicaid licenses yanked at another company he owns, Professional Home Health Agency.

Central Medical doesn't tell the story quite the same way.

Peter Saari, Central Medical's compliance director, said de la Pedraja does have ownership interest in Professional. He also said Professional has been audited and is being investigated for what Saari calls "clerical issues," but it's not a done deal. No finding has been made, he said.

"I can tell you this: Patient care at Professional has never been an issue," Saari said. "And Central Medical is a family business that has been in business for 20 years. It was started by de la Pedraja's father."

In any event, Central Medical and Professional are two separate, non-binding entities, and "the certification requirement did not extend to unrelated ownership interests in separate legal entities," Saari said.

"AHCA's suspension of the award and subsequent proposed award of contract to companies other than [Central] are erroneous, arbitrary and contrary to competition and also contravene to the agency's rules and policy, bid specifications and evaluation procedures," the company states in its protest.

In the protest, Central Medical also points out that it was the company with the highest total score for regions 9, 10 and 11. HME