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Healthy growth expected for medical services

In Citrus County, the business of health care is facing explosive growth in the 1990s. The county's two hospitals have more than $16-million in expansions and renovations on the drawing board for the first half of the decade, while health care services developed by physicians and other health care groups are sprouting throughout the community.

Health care providers say the expansions in facilities and the additions of new health programs are necessary to provide for the community's continually growing population.

In 1989, Citrus County's first psychiatric hospital opened near Beverly Hills. When the 88-bed hospital, Gulf Shores Institute, has opened all of its wings later this year, the hospital will be providing jobs for nearly 200 employees and psychiatric and substance abuse programs for both adults and children.

The hospital also offers an outpatient treatment program and has plans for different programs in the future ranging from a program targeting eating disorders to one designed to help professionals who have a chemical dependency.

Elsewhere in the county, new nursing homes, adult congregate living facilities and diagnostic centers are opening to handle the growing

population, much of it retirees.

Local physicians also are getting into more diverse health care


One of the most active, gerontologist Hanimi Challa, has begun work on a medical complex in Beverly Hills. The complex will ultimately include private physician's offices, a diagnostic center, a cancer treatment center, a dentist, a pharmacy and a home health equipment business.

But the largest plans for medical service expansions come from the county's two hospitals, Citrus Memorial Hospital in downtown Inverness and Seven Rivers Community Hospital north of Crystal River.

At Seven Rivers, groundbreaking is set for late this month on the first phase of more than $10-million in expansions planned over the next four years.

When the expansions are done, the hospital will have added obstetric and pediatric care units, a psychiatric unit, built a new outpatient surgery area and renovated and expanded the emergency room, the radiology department and support services for the hospital.

Seven Rivers also hopes to add a cardiac catheterization lab, but a recent decision by the state on approving that project has been delayed several months, according to administrator Michael Heindel.

"The bottom line is that there are two needs," Heindel said. "The first need is for services in the community so that our patients won't have to travel to Ocala or Gainesville.

"We also want to change our patient mix. We can't be a full service hospital without providing services like pediatrics, obstetrics, psychiatric," he said.

That change in patient mix, which refers to the kinds of patients using the hospital, is necessary since most of the hospital's patients are on Medicare. Medicare only reimburses a portion of the cost of treatment to the hospital, making it necessary to serve other types of patients, Heindel explained.

With the fastest-growing portion of the Citrus population in the 15-44 age group, "We have to provide services for those people," he said.

At Citrus Memorial Hospital, another $6-million in improvements is planned in the next few years. Those expansions will affect a variety of services at the hospital including expansions of the outpatient surgery, operating rooms, radiology and nuclear medicine departments.

In addition to the growing Inverness facility, the hospital also continues to branch into the community with a medical complex in Lecanto, doctors offices near Sugarmill Woods south of Homosassa and a new complex planned for the Citrus Springs area.

Citrus Memorial is also completing a change of structure so that the public hospital will turn its operation over to a private foundation. Hospital officials say the change won't affect patient care or rates, but will make the hospital more competitive into the future.

"I think that's a culmination of doing what was recommended in our 1985 strategic business plan," said Charles Blasband, chief executive officer for Citrus Memorial.

"As far as the expansion goes, we're just trying to meet the needs of our growing community."