LAND O'LAKES — Welcome to the Hotel Connerton.
With its modern chandeliers, floors that look like wood, picture windows and earth tone decor, it hardly looks like what it actually is — a hospital.
"We were trying to stay away from an institutional look," said Catherine Edmisten, director of clinical services for the 50-bed hospital, formally named Long Term Acute Care Hospital at Connerton.
The effort is evident in everything, from the private rooms, to the foldout sofa beds that enable spouses and relatives to stay at their loved ones' bedsides.
Gone are the stark white blankets. Instead, patients get olive green ones that match the walls. Flat-screen TVs carry 25 cable channels.
At mealtime, patients place orders with staffers dressed in tuxedos who behave more like waiters than orderlies.
The hospital, which officially opens today, is central Pasco's first. West Pasco has Bayonet Point and Community Hospital, while east Pasco has Florida Hospital Zephyrhills and Pasco Regional Medical Center in Dade City.
The one story building, off U.S. 41, boasts 48,000 square feet and will initially employ 80. Executives expect the staff to expand to 125. Teen volunteers also will be needed.
The Connerton isn't like a regular hospital, with an emergency room and birthing suites. It gets its patients from other hospitals, including hospitals in its network, University Community Health.
"A patient gets referred to this hospital when things don't go as anticipated," Edmisten said. "Perhaps they aren't healing well."
The average stay for a patient in a long term acute hospital (called an LTAC by medical insiders) is 25 days as opposed to a few days for those in acute care hospitals.
"We serve the sickest of the sick," said CEO Debi Martoccio, the former vice president of patient care/chief nursing officer at University Community Hospital in Tampa.
Construction of the hospital began in February 2008, two years after the state granted UCH a certificate of need. The area is fortunate, Martoccio said, as the feds have declared a moratorium on long term acute care hospitals, which receive higher Medicare reimbursements than traditional hospitals.
The location was appealing because it is central in relation to other UCH hospitals. It also is near other hospitals that can refer long term patients there.
Officials expect to draw from Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Citrus and Polk counties.
The central Pasco market, with its growing population and high income levels, has drawn intense interest from several hospital companies in the past few years.
UCH, Adventist and Baycare all applied to the state for permission to open hospitals in the Wesley Chapel area.
Adventist joined with UCH in seeking permission to build an 80-bed hospital near the Shops at Wiregrass. The state granted the request. After a challenge from Baycare, an administrative law judge upheld the state's decision.
The Wesley Chapel Medical Center is slated to open about 18 months to two years after construction begins, but no start date has been set.