The latest example of Philip Beauchamp's forward thinking opens next week.
It is Morton Plant Mease Health Care's new $9-million free-standing emergency room on Bryan Dairy Road in Largo. It will be the first such facility in Tampa Bay and only the fourth in the state.
Its mission: to provide emergency care to an underserved area of mid Pinellas.
"When these doors open (Wednesday), they won't close for 30 years," said Beauchamp, president and CEO of Morton Plant Mease Health Care.
The emergency room is the latest contribution to Beauchamp's legacy of improving the community's access to medical care.
It also might be one of his last.
Beauchamp, 62, announced this week he will retire next year after 16 years leading first Mease Dunedin Hospital and then the merged Morton Plant and Mease organizations.
In interviews Wednesday, associates praised Beauchamp's talents for innovation, community outreach and ability to move his organization forward.
"He was always willing to try something new and different," said his predecessor, Frank Murphy. "He wasn't one of those people that just got in the chair and sat there and stayed still."
The son of a nurse and a minister, Beauchamp (who pronounces his name Beecham) said he was taught to "give back to the community more than you take from it." He often uses the phrase "community focus" when talking about health care. He mentions the importance of meeting the service, cost and outcome needs of his customers.
Among his biggest accomplishments is the merger of Morton Plant and Mease hospitals. He was the CEO of Mease Hospital in 1994 when the hospitals merged some of their business operations, but remained competitors in other areas. The partial merger required the approval of the U.S. Justice Department and was credited with saving the hospitals tens of millions of dollars. In 2005, the hospitals merged all of their operations.
The hardest part of a merger can be dealing with egos, said Alan Bomstein, who was chairman of the board at Morton Plant Hospital at the time of the merger. Each hospital already had a CEO. One was going to lose that title.
Virtually without hesitation, Beauchamp said he would be happy to let Frank Murphy, the CEO of Morton Plant Hospital, be the CEO of the merged organization to make the union work.
"I had an enormous respect for Phil from that moment forward," Bomstein said. "It's not about Phil. It's about the community and about the hospitals."
Today, Morton Plant Mease Health Care consists of Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Mease Dunedin Hospital, Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey. It has 1,100 doctors and is part of the BayCare Health System, a joint operating agreement between not-for-profit hospitals on both sides of Tampa Bay.
Beauchamp, previously president and CEO of Sarasota Memorial Hospital, was appointed president and CEO of Morton Plant Mease Health Care in 1997.
Beauchamp lived the values he often spoke about (respect, dignity and responsibility), said Bruce Fyfe, past chairman of the Morton Plant Mease Hospital board.
"He taught me that not-for-profit health care is more than just a phrase," Fyfe said. "It is a culture — a culture of trying to make sure that everyone in our community had access to quality health care regardless of the ability to pay."
An example of that came when Beauchamp and Fyfe, now chairman of the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater, began an outreach program to bring three medical team members to HEP. The team's mental and physical evaluations prevented an estimated 446 hospitalizations in 2007, saving $1.7-million.
"That kind of commitment to community health, the ability to think outside the box … that really differentiates him," Fyfe said.
Engaging the CEOs of organizations in fundraising is usually a challenge for development officers, said Holly Duncan, the president and CEO of the Morton Plant Mease Foundation.
But that isn't the case with Beauchamp.
"He has given a great deal of time and energy and expertise to that process and he is highly respected by our donor community," Duncan said.
Beauchamp will stay in his job through what is expected to be a national search for his replacement. After retiring, he said he plans to spend time with his family, which includes nine grandchildren, and go fishing. He'll stay involved with his church and other community organizations.
But on Wednesday, Beauchamp was still looking ahead. He stood in the new Bardmoor emergency room as workers painted and did finishing touches. The 15-bed facility will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Employees will come in Monday and patients can be treated starting Wednesday.
"The fun of leadership," he said, "is taking challenges on and seeing them come into reality."
Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)445-4181.