ST. PETERSBURG — The Suncoast Medical Clinic, the largest doctor's practice in south Pinellas County, is moving into new offices, adding physicians and expanding services to include an urgent care clinic.
The changes come after the practice was acquired last year by BayCare, the leading health care player in the Tampa Bay area, whose properties include St. Anthony's Hospital.
As part of the deal, BayCare is building a $22 million office building for Suncoast on the St. Anthony's campus, less than 2 miles from its current home at Bayfront Medical Center. Moving day is scheduled for the end of the year.
In its new location, Suncoast will offer additional services — most notably, an urgent care clinic with expanded hours.
Officials at BayCare and Suncoast say they hope to provide patients with faster access to physicians and an after-hours alternative to the emergency room.
That might sound counterintuitive — a hospital system trying to keep patients out of the emergency room. But the Suncoast-BayCare alliance comes as changes to the U.S. health care system prompt doctors and hospitals to team up to prevent unnecessary, expensive hospitalizations.
"It's the right care, at the right time, at the right place," said St. Anthony's president Bill Ulbricht. "If the urgent treatment center is open, that would be a lower-cost alternative than going to the ER."
Of course, St. Anthony's will be well positioned to pick up the additional business if any of the patients seeking treatment at Suncoast's urgent care clinic require hospitalization.
"Being just yards away from the ER makes the transfer of patients to a more acute care setting very simple," said Dr. Mark Gordon, president of the Suncoast Medical Clinic.
But he noted that patients have the final say on where they want to be hospitalized and Suncoast doctors will continue to work at Bayfront.
Since joining BayCare, Suncoast has recruited almost a dozen physicians, including specialists in orthopedics, rheumatology, gastroenterology and oncology. All should be in place by the end of the year, Gordon said.
He said the practice of about 55 physicians will continue recruiting additional doctors, especially in primary care. The move to the new building, scheduled for late December, should improve the experience for patients who make 175,000 visits to Suncoast each year.
A larger reception area should mean fewer backups as patients check in for doctor's appointments. And as they wait, patients can update their information at health kiosks.
The three-story, 105,000 square foot building — which will also house a BayCare lab and outpatient imaging center — is on the east side of the St. Anthony's campus. Patients will have access to the parking garage off Jackson Street.
Letitia Stein can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330.