WESLEY CHAPEL — It's one of the few parts of the county without a YMCA, but next year Wesley Chapel will be the only area of the county with a hospital-based, state-of-the-art wellness center.
Community leaders and executives with Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel on Wednesday broke ground on a 100,000-square-foot three-story building, half of which will be taken up by a facility equipped with swimming pools and other fitness equipment. The other half will be home to medical offices. The new building sits adjacent to the new 80-bed hospital, which is currently under construction and is set to open this fall on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard north of the Shops at Wiregrass.
"It integrates clinical services with fitness services," said Donna Jarmusz, senior vice president with Alter+Care, the Chicago-based company that is developing the center for the hospital. When it opens early next year, it will be the company's 17th wellness center in the United States.
In addition to a 25-meter lap pool, the center will offer a warm water therapy pool, men's, women's and family locker rooms, an indoor walk/jog track, massage services, group exercise studios, conference rooms, cardio and free weights equipment, a heart-healthy cafe, logo shop, disease management and wellness education programs. It will sell general memberships for healthy people who prefer a medically supervised workout program, as well as patients referred by their doctors for treatment or therapy.
The center also is expected to create 30 to 40 new jobs.
Unlike the scores of for-profit gyms that have recently popped up in the area, the new Wellness Plaza will also offer medically supervised therapy programs for hospital patients. Each person will receive a personal health assessment. Those with chronic conditions such as diabetes will be taught how to manage those more effectively with the ultimate goal of avoiding costly hospital care.
"It's really a mind, body, spirit program," Jarmusz said. "We're not trying to take away from local gyms. Our target is people 35 and older."
The concept is a natural fit for hospitals run by Adventist Health System, a nonprofit company that is a mission of the Seventh-day Adventist faith. The denomination stresses physical health as being an important part of spiritual health. In 1866, its pioneers opened a healing center in Michigan with a patient list that included J.C. Penney, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, Lowell Thomas, William Jennings Bryan, Dale Carnegie, C.W. Post and John D. Rockefeller.
"Ultimately, faith is an important part of everybody's healing," said Peter Bath, regional vice president for mission of Florida Hospital's Tampa division.
Hospitals are turning to wellness centers as health care costs rise, and the emphasis turns from treating illnesses to preventing them. "Providing the right care at the right time" is how Hal Ziecheck, administrator for Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey, likes to put it.
The wellness center plus the new Wesley Chapel hospital "will allow people in the community to receive treatment in this community in the way God designed," said Brian Adams, chief executive officer for Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. "They can stay healthy long term and avoid the hospital."