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South Florida Baptist Hospital touts $3.8 million renovation

South Florida Baptist Hospital leaders, from left: Jack Vascon-cellos, Steve Nierman and Jim LeHeup stand in the new unit.

Betty Briggs | Special to the Times

South Florida Baptist Hospital leaders, from left: Jack Vascon-cellos, Steve Nierman and Jim LeHeup stand in the new unit.

PLANT CITY — Robotic surgery, neuro-spine care, hyperbaric medicine, advanced heart procedures, and a heliport for quick transfers, services once associated only with hospitals in larger cities, have come to South Florida Baptist Hospital as part of a $3.8 million renovation.

As of Monday, a new 16-bed private medical/surgical "hotel-like" unit at the hospital began receiving patients benefiting from the high-tech services.

During an open house tour last week, Steve Nierman, chief operating officer of the BayCare Health System hospital, stressed that even though the hospital continues to grow, patient experience remains a priority.

"The real challenge is financing — managing with less resources," said Nierman, who has been with the hospital eight years.

Jack Vasconcellos, director of operations, and Jim LeHeup, manager of plant operations, joined Nierman during the tour.

Vasconcellos said nursing and other team members, had direct input in the design of unit rooms, with emphasis on patient and family comfort and safety.

In addition to state-of-the-art medical technology, LeHeup pointed out that the hotel-type private rooms contain several amenities: double walls for quietness, plantation shudders and lights for different levels of comfort, a family zone with a large couch, a 47-inch television and over-sized bathrooms with fold-out shower seats.

Construction of two operating room suites will be completed in summer, and the shell for a 19-bed intensive care unit has been built. Nierman hopes, depending on BayCare's resources and timetable, that unit will be ready for patients in 2014.

Nierman said the additions help complement the hospital's strong community support.

In addition to donations from families, many dating to Plant City's early days, the hospital's foundation has raised $11.5 million.

South Florida Baptist began in 1945 with a $10,000 pledge from the Florida Baptist Convention and hospital trustees signing personal notes to purchase equipment and supplies.

It's now a facility with an $81 million operating budget and an estimated $12.5 million community benefit.

"In all my years in health care, I've never known a community so generous in supporting its local hospital," Nierman said.

Betty Briggs can be reached at

South Florida Baptist Hospital touts $3.8 million renovation 04/04/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3:36pm]
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