WESLEY CHAPEL — This week Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel opened the doors of its sleek $150 million hospital packed with futuristic technologies, such as an MRI machine that lets patients see peaceful nature scenes, children's exam rooms with changeable wall colors and motifs, and smart sinks and soap dispensers that record when they were used so handwashing is always documented.
Fewer than 20 miles away, Pasco Regional Medical Center touted its new partnership with Shands at the University of Florida, which will provide teleconferencing consultations on cardiac and stroke patient cases. Philip Minden, CEO of the Dade City hospital, says the alliance will bring "more accurate, in-depth diagnoses" and provide a smooth transfer to the Gainesville hospital if patients need one of the specialists there.
Meanwhile, their counterparts at Florida Hospital Zephyrhills are gearing up for the Thursday opening of the new Simpson Breast Health Center, supported by a $250,000 gift from state Sen.-elect Wilton Simpson and his wife, Kathy. The center is designed to streamline the process for breast cancer patients by providing screening, diagnostics, treatment and education all in one place. With a combination of in-house experts and the most advanced equipment, the center aims provide diagnoses more quickly, through the least invasive means.
All three developments this week underscore the efforts by local hospitals to step up their offerings of cutting-edge medical care closer to home.
"Certainly people in Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes and the surrounding area have had to travel for health care for a long time, whether to elsewhere in Pasco County or into Hillsborough County as well," said Tracy Clouser, director of marketing at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel.
But it's not enough to be the closest hospital if patients look down the road and see a better facility a short drive away.
"We have some imaging equipment that is first in the region. We have a state-of-the-art vascular surgery suite," Clouser said, listing some of the selling points of the 83-bed Wesley Chapel hospital. The MRI scanner can take some images in mere seconds, and the ER has a mobile X-ray machine and its own CT scanner for faster diagnosis. "We wanted to use what's the best in care, in terms of processes and practices, and also in terms of equipment, so we're providing the best care here."
Minden echoed that thinking with Pasco Regional's new partnership with Shands, which officially kicked off Monday. The Dade City hospital was already certified as a primary stroke center; now it has added Shands' advanced protocols and techniques, and it has direct access to the doctors at the University of Florida.
Pasco Regional expects to treat most patients in-house, Minden said. But if a certain case needs a specialized neurosurgeon, for example, help is just a 22-minute helicopter ride away to Shands.
"I think since I'm a community hospital, I have an obligation to take care of my community," Minden said.
He noted the push to bring more amenities closer to home is reflected in the major investment Pasco Regional's parent company, Health Management Associates, has made in the Dade City hospital. This year, Pasco Regional finished a $7 million expansion that nearly tripled the size of its ER, adding a more spacious waiting area and dedicated CT scanner suite, among other amenities.
West Pasco's hospitals have been busy expanding, too. This year, Community Hospital left its New Port Richey campus and opened the Medical Center of Trinity, a 236-bed acute care facility on State Road 54. Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, which added a new medical tower with a critical care unit a couple of years ago, recently remodeled and enlarged its operating rooms. And Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point got the green light to operate a trauma center in its emergency department.
The ER was also a big focus at the new Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, run by the Adventist Health System, a nonprofit company that is a mission of the Seventh-day Adventist faith. When the hospital opened Monday, ER patients were taken directly to a private room for triage and paperwork, instead of handling those matters in the waiting room.
"People were very pleased with that," Clouser said.
While providing the latest technology and medical expertise was important, hospital officials also wanted to create a relaxing place conducive to healing. The ER waiting room at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel has a soothing 900-gallon aquarium, not a bank of TVs blaring programming around the clock. And each patient room overlooks a healing garden — a calming view of nature that helps promote patient well-being.
"The hospital is a beautiful environment. It's very much a natural healing environment," Clouser said. "I think people were very pleased."