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South Hillsborough health-care providers can't expand fast enough

St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, off of Big Bend Road in Riverview, opened in February of 2015 with 112 beds and 500 employees. It’s expected to grow to 136 beds and 740 employees by early next year.
St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, off of Big Bend Road in Riverview, opened in February of 2015 with 112 beds and 500 employees. It’s expected to grow to 136 beds and 740 employees by early next year.
Published Oct. 14, 2016

Everyone recognized Riverview needed a hospital to support its growing population.

They just didn't realize how great the need was.

St. Joseph's Hospital-South opened off of Big Bend Road less than two years ago with 500 employees and 112 total hospital beds. By early next year, the hospital will be up to 740 employees and 136 beds.

"We anticipated this facility would grow over time," said hospital president Matt Novak. "We just didn't think that time would be in the first two years."

Over the last 20 years, Riverview has evolved from a small rural town to a bustling suburb with a seven-lane highway plagued by traffic jams. From 2000 to 2010, the population grew about 500 percent to 71,000. Half of all new construction across the entire Tampa Bay region is planned for South Hillsborough County.

Before St. Joseph's opened in February 2015, Riverview residents had to drive a ways for emergency care — 8 miles south to Sun Bay Hospital in Sun City Center or 14 miles north to Brandon Regional Hospital.

Both of those hospitals are owned by Tennessee-based HCA Healthcare, which lost a bid to build a Riverview hospital on 60 acres it owns along Big Bend Road across from St. Joseph's-South.

It is unclear how HCA will use the land now, though the company has said it would consider building medical offices there. In the meantime, spokeswoman JC Sadler wrote in a statement that HCA is investing heavily in the SouthShore area, adding 45,000 square feet to its emergency room at Brandon Regional Hospital as well as expanding and renovating South Bay Hospital.

Hospitals are just one area of health care that's booming in the region.

A host of specialty doctors offices and other medical services have also opened in Riverview, said Tanya Doran, executive director of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce.

Florida E.N.T. & Allergy, for example, relocated to South Riverview from Sun City Center shortly before St. Joseph's opened in Riverview. The office has nearly doubled its staff in that time, added new services and is in the process of expanding its building from 2,000 square feet to 4,000, said Scott A. Powell, a doctor at the office.

"Given the robust growth in the area of both young and old, we actually have plans to expand even further," he wrote in a statement. "The population growth in the area is remarkable and we are trying our best to keep up with the demand."

"That has been a great addition to the community where we don't have to travel outside of the area to see specialists," Doran said.

But the hospital was key.

"As soon as their doors opened they needed to start that expansion," Doran said. "Our community needed this."

The average occupancy rate for hospital beds in Florida is 57 percent so far in 2016. St. Joseph's-South is at 86.7 percent, according to hospital spokeswoman Lisa Patterson. That ratio will drop once new hospital beds are added early next year.

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St. Joseph's-South has added three labor and delivery rooms to the four it opened with, doubled the number of postpartum rooms and added board-certified pediatric emergency physicians. Being a part of Baycare Health System has allowed the hospital to keep up with its staffing needs, said Novak, the hospital president.

"We're making sure we can keep up with that capacity."

Contact Alli Knothe at Follow @KnotheA