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Columbia plans $40-million expansion

Despite fallout from a yearlong government investigation, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. continues to expand its hospital operations in Pasco County.

Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point will ask the state to approve a $40-million project that would add 44 hospital beds and several operating rooms. If approved, the project would be the biggest since the hospital was built nearly two decades ago.

Pasco Community Hospital, formerly Dade City Hospital, recently opened a new medical office building in Zephyrhills geared to the area's senior population.

And Community Hospital New Port Richey is drawing up plans for its first obstetrics unit.

The expansions are in line with other capital projects planned at Columbia hospitals regionwide.

"We're very excited about the growth in Pasco County, and our focus is to meet the needs of the communities that those hospitals are in," said Beth Tuttle, West Florida division manager for Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.

The projects come amid a massive corporate reorganization, one that was sparked by a widespread federal investigation into Columbia's billing practices.

In July, three Columbia managers were indicted on charges of overbilling Medicare. Dr. Thomas Frist, who took over as Columbia's chief executive officer, stopped the company's aggressive expansion and began cutting costs.

This year Columbia has laid off more than 20 home health care workers in Pasco and cut a dozen positions, mostly managerial, at its Bayonet Point and Spring Hill hospitals.

But the cost cutting hasn't stalled hospital growth plans in Pasco.

On May 11, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point will seek state approval to increase its licensed beds to 300.

"Tremendous growth makes expansion essential so we can continue to deliver the level of care our patients expect," chief executive officer Don Griffin said.

Most of the 44 beds would be for critical-care patients and would be situated in a three-story tower on the south side of the hospital, off U.S. 19 in Hudson.

The tower would contain additional operating rooms and house the hospital's Heart Institute, one of the highest-volume cardiac surgery centers in Florida. The Institute performed 1,700 open-heart procedures last year.

The hospital needs more room to handle the increased volume of cardiac surgery patients, Bayonet Point marketing director Chris Hyers said.

The project also involves various hospital renovations, changes to improve the flow of patients, and construction of a pavilion named after Dr. Thomas F. Frist Sr., the late founder and chief executive officer of Hospital Corp. of America, which built the hospital.

"We'd love to break ground in nine months," Hyers said.

Bayonet Point also is adding a fourth cardiac catheter lab and a 13,000-square-foot ambulatory surgery center.

Community Hospital New Port Richey, which is licensed for 414 beds, plans to build its first obstetrics unit, which would consist of 10 beds, said Tuttle.

"It's an expansion of our service to the community," said Tuttle, adding that she had no further details. "It's under design and it's been funded."

Pasco Community Hospital in Dade City last week broke ground on a 12,000-square-foot medical office park in Zephyrhills.

The park, off U.S. 301 just south of Daughtery Road, includes space for a primary care physician, senior health center, a home health agency and the local chapter of the National Association of Senior Friends.

The 120-bed hospital wanted to expand into Zephyrhills, where many of its patients live. "It was to give us a stronger presence in that market," spokeswoman Jean Caldwell said.

Dade City is among a group of hospitals that Columbia may sell, Caldwell said.

Columbia hospitals aren't the only ones growing.

North Bay Medical Center, the 122-bed hospital on Madison Street in New Port Richey, will expand its emergency room and develop a cardiac catheterization lab by early next year.

"We are expanding services in Pasco County to provide a full continuum of health care and to improve the health care needs of the community," said Amy Lovett, spokeswoman for Morton Plant Mease Health Care, which manages the hospital through a partnership with Tenet Healthcare Corp.

Morton Plant, a non-profit hospital company based in Dunedin, manages the Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute in New Port Richey and operates an outpatient center at Trinity.

In Zephyrhills, East Pasco Medical Center is seeking state approval to build a laboratory, a new emergency room and a new cafeteria.

"The community need is there for this," hospital spokeswoman Susan Bennett said.

East Pasco, with 122 beds, is owned by Adventist Health System, which recently announced plans to form a joint operating company with University Community Hospital in Tampa.

Pasco hospital expansions

Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point: $40-million project adding 44 hospital beds and several operating rooms.

Pasco Community Hospital in Dade City: newly opened medical office and senior service center in Zephyrhills.

Community Hospital New Port Richey: new obstetrics unit.

North Bay Medical Center in New Port Richey: expanded emergency room and a cardiac catheterization lab.

East Pasco Medical Center in Zephyrhills: a new laboratory, emergency room and bigger cafeteria.

Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point hopes to add several operating rooms and 44 beds.

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