Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Health

Florida Hospital buys 100 acres in Polk to connect Tampa and Orlando hospitals

Adventist Health System, the parent company of Florida Hospital, purchased a large tract of land in Polk County this summer with plans to expand and connect its hospital systems in Tampa Bay and Orlando.

The health care company paid $14.5 million for 103 acres along Interstate 4 just west of Florida Polytechnic University. Earlier this summer, executives with Florida Hospital, which has eight hospitals in the Tampa Bay region, met with Lakeland city officials to discuss the future development of the property. Plans include a freestanding emergency room and a possible 200-bed hospital in the next decade, if demand in the region warrants it.

"There is a tremendous amount of new growth happening in the Lakeland and Auburndale area, and our goal is to provide greater health care access and convenience to the people living along the I-4 corridor, while better connecting the existing Florida Hospital network of care between the Tampa and Orlando markets," said Mike Schultz, president and CEO of Florida Hospital's West Florida division. "We are interested in developing new health care facilities to serve the population growth in the area while being complementary to the care that is being delivered through the Lakeland Regional Health System."

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The Lakeland region has one hospital, Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, which is the fifth-largest hospital in the state with 850 beds, according to its website.

Florida Hospital has more than 25 hospitals and clinics in the Sunshine State, with a number of them clustered around the Tampa Bay region, in the Orlando area and in Daytona Beach. The system employs more than 7,000 physicians and health care professionals in the state. Its parent, Adventist, is one of the nation's largest health care companies, with 45 hospitals across nine states.

The land purchase is one way to better connect the system's hospitals, said Lauren Key, a senior executive officer of consumer strategy in Florida Hospital's West Florida division.

"There is a gap in coverage in this area," Key said. "What we know today is that people who live in (Polk County) already go to our hospitals in Tampa and Orlando for care. This is a way to better connect our existing hospitals and serve the people who live in this area when they need it most."

There are no plans to break ground on any buildings just yet, nor is there an immediate time line for construction, Key said. The land purchase is part of a long-term vision for Florida Hospital. Population growth along the I-4 corridor, both in terms of housing development and employers, like Amazon, moving into the region, will determine how quickly Florida Hospital expands there.

But the system sees a need for a freestanding emergency room and a potential outpatient surgery facility in the region sooner rather than later, Key said. It could be similar to the 24-bed, 18,500-square-foot emergency room clinic Florida Hospital opened in Palm Harbor last December, which offers adult and pediatric emergency care, x-ray, CT scan, ultrasound, laboratory and pharmacy services around the clock.

A second phase of construction could include the 200-bed community hospital with an emergency room and 200,000 square feet of medical office space.

Florida Hospital has not applied for the certificate of need to get approval to build the hospital. The system says the entire project could bring more than 1,000 new medical jobs to Polk County.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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