Florida Hospital To Build Free-Standing Emergency Department In Northeast Lakeland
Plans are on the drawing board to open a free-standing emergency department in early 2020 on the property that Adventist Health System/Florida Hospital bought last year alongside Interstate 4 just west of Florida Polytechnic University.
Construction is expected to start in early 2019, according to Mike Schultz, chief executive officer of the West Florida Division of Adventist Health.
Demographic and population growth analyses are underway to determine whether to build a 12-bay or 24-bay emergency department, he said.
“We are in the process of planning a 10-year trajectory” that eventually is expected to include a full-scale hospital, Schultz said.
Adventist, a faith-based, nonprofit health care organization, is headquartered in Altamonte Springs and has 46 hospitals in nine states. In Florida, it owns 27 hospitals, and although it has hospitals across Central Florida, none is in Polk County. It also operates two stand-alone emergency departments in the Tampa area, three in the Orlando area and has plans to build three more within two years in the West Division area (Lakeland, Brandon and West Chase).
A stand-alone emergency department is a lower-cost entry into the Polk County market than a full-scale hospital, Schultz said.
“A hospital requires a certificate of need from the state, but an emergency department does not,” Schultz said. “We can present for a hospital later on when there is a proven need for in-patient beds.”
In August, Adventist Health paid $14,750,100 for three adjacent tracts of land totaling 104.1 acres between the interstate and University Boulevard in northeast Lakeland.
“The idea behind the purchase was anticipation of the rapid growth everyone sees coming to the Orlando and Tampa corridor along I-4,” said Schultz, who noted the tract has plenty of space for expansion into a full-service hospital.
“All our free-standing EDs (emergency departments) are built in similar fashion and vary between 12 and 24 beds,” said Richelle Hoenes-Ahearn, director of corporate communications Florida Hospital, West Florida Division.
Free-standing emergency departments are staffed and equipped to care for patients in the same fashion as emergency departments attached to hospitals and must have CT scans, ultrasound, X-ray and on-site laboratory, Hoenes-Ahearn said. They treat patients for life-threatening illnesses or injury, such as heart attack, extreme fever, head injury or loss of limb, she added.
Patients with major trauma will still have to be transported to a Level I trauma center — in Central Florida, those are Tampa General Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center — or a Level II trauma center — in Central Florida, those are Lakeland Regional Health, Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee and Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg.
When Adventist representatives approached Lakeland city commissioners in July about the prospect of building a hospital within city limits, their proposal was a 200-bed facility.
That is still the size projected for when Adventist moves to the hospital-building stage, Hoenes-Ahearn said.
For comparison purposes, Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Haines City is licensed for 193 beds and Lake Wales Medical Center for 160 beds.
The hospitals closest to the Adventist property — Lakeland Regional Health, at about 9 miles away, and Winter Haven Hospital, at about 12 miles away — are licensed for 859 beds and 519 beds, respectively.
“We grew out of Orlando; that was our hub and base for 100 years,” Schultz said. “We merged with a major health system in Tampa in 2011, University Community Health, so we grew in that market. We have been in Avon Park for probably 25 years. It was not intentional to not be in Polk County before this. But as we see the population growth along the I-4 corridor, we feel the need to be there for residents who choose Florida Hospital.”
Nearby, Florida Hospital/Adventist operates hospitals in Celebration, Zephyrhills, Wesley Chapel, Carrollwood, Land O’Lakes, Apopka, Avon Park/Sebring, Wauchula and Altamonte Springs.
This year, Adventist purchased hospitals in Dade City and Ocala from the large, national for-profit chain Community Health Systems, which has been selling off hospitals nationwide in an attempt to improve its financial outlook.
Schultz said that Adventist has not been in negotiations to buy either of the CHS-owned hospitals in Polk County — Heart of Florida or Lake Wales Hospital.
Steve Nierman, president of Winter Haven Hospital, said in a statement Florida Hospital’s plan does not affect the strategy of BayCare Health System in Polk County.
″Our strategy is mission-driven and carried out through our three hospitals, Bartow Regional, Winter Haven and Winter Haven Women’s, as well as through the many BayCare Medical Group practices, outpatient lab facilities, BayCare Urgent Care Centers and BayCare Home Health,” Nierman said. “We also continue to add convenient access with our Publix partnership, opening a Walk-In Care center at the south Lakeland Lake Miriam Square Publix in March, and another at the Haines City Mall next week.”
“Polk residents have many options for their health care needs,” Nierman said. ” Our role is to listen to those needs and make decisions based on them.”
Representatives from Lakeland Regional Health did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Source: News Chief