NEW PORT RICHEY — Last year, the former administrator at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital compared the huge remodeling project to changing an engine of a Boeing 747 in midair.
Now the crew at North Bay is still working to retrofit the entire hospital piece by piece, while at the same time preparing to become the city's only full-service health care provider when its competitor moves the bulk of its operations to a new campus in Trinity.
"Not much was done to it in 20 to 30 years," said Hal Ziecheck, the current administrator for the 154-bed hospital, which operated under various owners until Morton Plant acquired it in 1999. "It was left to survive on its own."
The latest upgrade, announced last week, involves adding eight operating rooms to replace the current ones, which at 350 to 500 square feet are too small to easily accommodate new high tech robots that are in demand for less invasive, faster surgeries that also cut recovery time.
"We can still make it work, but it's a tight fit," Ziecheck said.
The new ORs will be up to 675 square feet. The old space will be converted into recovery rooms once the new ORs are completed next year. The project represents a $20 to $25 million investment. Hospital officials expect to break ground later this year.
The operating room upgrade comes right at the opening of the hospital's 9,750-square-foot cardiovascular center. The hospital has had catheterization labs for years, but the new center triples the space for interventional care such as angioplasties or stent placements, which it began offering last year.
Located on the first floor of the hospital's Starkey Medical Tower, which opened last year as part of a $49 million expansion, the cardiovascular center is centrally aligned with the emergency department to provide enhanced access and better flow for doctors and patients.
"Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women and our priority is to ensure we have the space and latest technology to diagnose and provide quality heart care to our patients," Ziecheck said.
The new cardiovascular center will increase the number of patient rooms from three to nine beds and allow for more heart catheterizations, angioplasties and treatments for peripheral vascular disease.
They also feature an all digital cardiac catheterization lab, an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram unit to test for heart abnormalities and cardiac stress testing lab that includes nuclear medicine testing.
The OR and cardiac project are part of an overhaul that doubled the size of the hospital campus and included the 56,000-square-foot, four-story Starkey Medical Tower, named for the pioneer ranching family, which donated $1 million toward the renovation and whose matriarch, Marsha Starkey, sits on the hospital board. It features all private patient rooms and has a newer intensive care unit, medical surgical unit, new respiratory care services and community education facilities. Adjacent to the hospital is the 45,000-square-foot, three-story medical arts building, which features an expanded sleep disorders center, outpatient lab facility and rehabilitation services.
The overhaul comes at a strategic time for North Bay as its closest competitor, HCA-owned Community Hospital, leaves New Port Richey for a campus at State Road 54 and Little Road in Trinity. The for-profit hospital, renamed the Medical Center of Trinity, is expected to open in November.
North Bay also put in a bid to move but state regulators gave the green light to Community.
Since then, North Bay has refocused its efforts on New Port Richey. Community is leaving an emergency room and psychiatric services in the city, but North Bay officials say having a emergency room attached to a full-service hospital will offer an advantage when time is critical.
"We see ourselves as part of the New Port Richey community and an important community resource," Ziecheck said.