NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials say the owner of the former Community Hospital site is trying to bring back medical services that left the complex more than two years ago, leaving behind a mostly vacant shell that has plunged in value.
In discussions about possible uses for the nearly empty hospital site at Marine Parkway and Grand Boulevard — which Medical Center of Trinity now calls its West Campus — hospital officials have talked of investing $10 million to $15 million into retrofitting the building in order to bring back some medical services, according to Mario Iezzoni, New Port Richey's economic development director.
Currently, the hospital is using only a small portion of its 300,000-square-foot building for a behavioral services center.
"It seems to me they want to have a real presence at that site," Iezzoni recently told the City Council.
Though Iezzoni said any such plans are far from concrete, one idea being kicked around is opening an emergency room. That alone is progress, as city officials have wondered for years what will become of the site, once a hefty source of property tax revenue.
Hospital owner Healthcare Corp. of America, based in Nashville, confirmed that the company is looking for possible uses.
"We are actively reviewing and researching options for our West Pasco Campus and while no final decisions have been made, we look forward to continuing to work with the city on ideas," said Medical Center of Trinity CEO Leigh Massengill.
A city study shows the site has diminished in taxable value from $20 million in 2000, to $5 million in 2013, and property values of surrounding medical buildings that fed off the hospital have dropped by half between 2007 and 2013, according to the report.
This comes amid speculation about the possibility of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs using part of the hospital as the site for a new clinic that would consolidate services for Pasco's 54,000 veterans that are currently spread around several facilities in New Port Richey and Port Richey.
Though prospects for locating the proposed 114,000-square-foot VA clinic remain up in the air, Iezzoni said the city supports the idea. He is asking the City Council to consider offering tax incentives and grants to the hospital and local businesses in an effort to cultivate economic redevelopment around the site.
Supporting redevelopment in and around the hospital site "certainly" should be discussed, New Port Richey Mayor Rob Marlowe told the Times.
Marlowe said he was not surprised to hear that Medical Center of Trinity is pondering returning medical services to the city. He said operating a facility in Trinity is expensive and the company may have lost a major customer base in New Port Richey and West Pasco to Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, which completed a $100 million expansion on the north side of the city in recent years.
"I'm still not convinced it was in their best interest to make that move," Marlowe said of the hospital leaving the city.
"I know that if I have an emergency, I'm not having someone drive me past North Bay to go all the way to Trinity. It makes no sense."