ST. PETERSBURG — Bayfront Health on Monday kicked off its first day as a for-profit hospital system, unveiling a logo, management team and slate of board members.
Bayfront's round teal symbol — a St. Petersburg icon visible from the interstate — is getting a colorful update courtesy of Health Management Associates, the hospital's new owner.
Now a ring of rainbow-hued petals, the new logo is just the start of the changes promised by the Naples-based chain operating in 15 states, which now owns an 80 percent controlling interest in Bayfront.
Monday also marked the first day on the job for Bayfront's new president and chief executive, Kathryn Gillette, who used a celebratory forum to announce the new chief operating and financial officers — both HMA veterans from outside St. Petersburg.
The company has committed to $12.5 million in technology updates at Bayfront, rolling out a new phone system and faster computers. It also plans to buy a new MRI machine as part of its pledge to invest $100 million in capital improvements at Bayfront over five years.
Bayfront will anchor a regional network of six smaller HMA hospitals from Brooksville to Port Charlotte, including Brooksville and Spring Hill regional hospitals and Pasco Regional Medical Center. Leaders say the affiliated hospitals will incorporate "Bayfront Health" into their names.
"Bayfront will become a name synonymous with high-quality care, not just here in Pinellas County, but throughout Tampa Bay," said Alan Levine, the senior vice president who leads HMA's 23 hospitals in Florida. "By the time people have a chance to see what this thing can do, people who originally were critical are going to become our biggest supporters."
Addressing Bayfront employees and local leaders, Levine acknowledged the lengthy negotiations required to close the deal. Because the hospital sits on city-owned land, the St. Petersburg City Council had to approve the sale of what was a private, not-for-profit institution and the last independent hospital in Pinellas.
In proclaiming Monday as "Bayfront Health Day," St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, a strong supporter of the deal, referenced the rapidly changing health care landscape that prompted Bayfront, which has struggled financially in recent years, to seek a partner.
HMA also brings to Bayfront a clinical affiliation with the University of Florida's Shands HealthCare, although details of how they will work together remain unclear.
"The continuum of health care in the city of St. Petersburg is greatly advanced because of this partnership," Foster said.
Gillette, a veteran hospital administrator, stressed that it was Bayfront's reputation that sold her on her new job.
Gillette has spent the past dozen years in the HCA chain, a local competitor to Bayfront. She will lead a management team that includes new chief financial officer, Eric Smith, and new chief operating officer, Lavah Lowe, both of whom come to Bayfront from other HMA facilities.
"We're going to keep it Bayfront, and we're going to make it even better than it has been for all these years," Gillette told a room filled with many Bayfront doctors, nurses and employees, acknowledging the hospital's century-long history. "That's hard to do."
Letitia Stein can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8330.