FOR­WARD THINK­ING

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FEATURES - BY JEFF LY­TLE

Lee Health’s bold plans to build a health and well­ness des­ti­na­tion at Co­conut Point in Es­tero will make qual­ity health care more ac­ces­si­ble to res­i­dents of south Lee County and North Naples.

Health care ser­vices for South­west Florida are about to take a quan­tum leap. The Lee County in­dus­try leader, now known as Lee Health, is poised to

open a brand-new $140 mil­lion med­i­cal cam­pus in Es­tero on Co­conut Road, mean­ing more op­tions and con­ve­nience for a grow­ing num­ber of pa­tients be­tween Naples and Fort My­ers. And those fa­cil­i­ties, due to be open by Spring 2019, will be only a start in that im­me­di­ate area. The steps for­ward will not come with­out com­pe­ti­tion and con­tro­versy—no stranger to health care projects in our area.

PLANS AND PRO­POS­ALS

With the 31-acre cam­pus, con­sist­ing of a 24/7 emer­gency de­part­ment and Lee Health’s largest out­pa­tient ser­vice cen­ter, well under way, Lee Health came for­ward with plans for a whole new 82-bed hospi­tal an­chor­ing the Es­tero site. Lee Health

pre­vi­ously filed for a Cer­tifi­cate of Need (CON) for a hospi­tal in Es­tero in 2013, which was de­nied by the state.

Nashville-based HCA (Hospi­tal Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­ica) filed ini­tial pa­per­work with state reg­u­la­tors for a hospi­tal at an un­spec­i­fied lo­ca­tion in the county and later nar­rowed it to some­where in Es­tero. Lee Health filed again for a CON.

HCA, the na­tional gi­ant whose 46 Florida hos­pi­tals in­clude fa­cil­i­ties as close as Sara­sota, En­gle­wood and Port Char­lotte, pro­poses a hospi­tal of 80 beds, with 10 dedicated to in­pa­tient psy­chi­atric care. Early news cov­er­age fea­tured HCA cit­ing a need for choice in a Lee Health-dom­i­nated mar­ket­place, with Lee Health coun­ter­ing with the need for sta­bil­ity in the wake of HCA sell­ing its two Fort My­ers hos­pi­tals in 2006.

The com­pet­ing pro­pos­als were in the hands of state reg­u­la­tors as of this edi­tion’s dead­lines, and, by sur­prise, both rather than just one were ap­proved, pend­ing po­ten­tial protests and ap­peals. Mean­while, Naples-based NCH Health­care strug­gled in vain to win Es­tero lead­ers’ sup­port for med­i­cal ser­vices in­clud­ing a 24/7 emer­gency room a stone’s throw away. So, NCH moved slightly south, still on U.S. High­way 41, to within the city lim­its of Bonita Springs, with its plans for 24/7 emer­gency and other ser­vices about one-fourth the size and cost of the Lee Health cam­pus. The NCH site is next to Di­a­mond Oaks Vil­lage and across High­way 41 from An­gelina’s Ris­torante.

Lee Health and NCH plan to con­tinue their ex­ist­ing joint ven­ture walk-in clinic, The Bonita Com­mu­nity Health Cen­ter. But what Lee Health plans to un­veil for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies mer­its a hard look now, on its own.

LEE HEALTH MOVES FOR­WARD

The ac­cent is on com­mu­nity. Lee Health and Vil­lage of Es­tero of­fi­cials stress that the com­mu­nity’s pri­or­i­ties have been front and cen­ter from the very first plan­ning stages. What is coming out of the ground now is what the pub­lic wants, say Lee Health of­fi­cials who make clear that con­nect­ing a hospi­tal of up to five sto­ries is a mat­ter of “when,” not “if.” An es­ti­mated 10,000 truck­loads of fill dirt make sure the hospi­tal would meet flood el­e­va­tion rules.

Mean­while, the on­go­ing goal is a user-friendly com­mu­nity cen­ter aimed at proac­tive health care to keep peo­ple out of the emer­gency room and hospi­tal. Ex­am­ples: A Healthy Life Cen­ter with physi­cian lec­tures, healthy cook­ing lessons, and yoga; trails suit­able for walk­ing, bi­cy­cling and com­mu­nity races; a cov­ered pavil­ion for a farm­ers mar­ket, as well as con­certs; and a phar­macy—part of the main 163,000-square-foot build­ing hous­ing the ER, labs and doc­tors’ of­fices—open to the pub­lic. No won­der Es­tero Mayor Jim Boesch, upon get­ting his first look in­side the cen­ter still under con­struc­tion in March, called the cam­pus “a great as­set.” It will get even greater when the Healthy Life Cen­ter, now based at the Co­conut Point shop­ping cen­ter, moves in. That cen­ter fea­tures well­ness ed­u­ca­tion screen­ings and ac­cess to Lee Health of­fer­ings. There even will be an am­bu­lance sub­sta­tion, with sleep­ing quar­ters for three EMTs. Con­sider the im­pact on jobs. The cen­ter will open with 250 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing 230 new hires.

The net ef­fect, Lee Health says, will be “a com­pre­hen­sive health and well­ness des­ti­na­tion ... of­fer­ing a broad ar­ray of med­i­cal ser­vices across the con­tin­uum of care.” The fa­cil­ity will in­clude: a day surgery cen­ter, di­ag­nos­tic imag­ing, test lab­o­ra­to­ries, a breast health cen­ter (screen­ing and di­ag­nos­tic mam­mog­ra­phy—2D and 3D), ul­tra­sound, stereo­tac­tic breast biopsy, and a DEXA (dual-en­ergy X-ray ab­sorp­tiom­e­try) ma­chine for bone den­sit­o­m­e­try scans, car­diac test­ing and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices. Lee Health–Co­conut Point will also in­clude nine short-stay (up to 24 hours) ob­ser­va­tion and re­cov­ery beds, and med­i­cal of­fices

“WITH THE OPEN­ING OF LEE HEALTH AT will have ac­cess to qual­ity health care closer to home.." CO­CONUT POINT, PEO­PLE LIV­ING IN

SOUTH LEE COUNTY AND NORTH NAPLES —Dr. Rick Pal­mon, Pres­i­dent of the Lee County Med­i­cal So­ci­ety

for pri­mary and spe­cialty care physi­cians, in­clud­ing some who are based at Golisano Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal in Fort My­ers.

And one more de­tail: There are plans for sooth­ing live pi­ano mu­sic in the main lobby.

All of the “new” has a deep back­ground, as non­profit Lee Memo­rial Health Sys­tem opened its first hospi­tal more than a cen­tury ago, in 1916. Lee Health now has grown to four acute care hos­pi­tals and two spe­cialty hos­pi­tals, plus a net­work of out­pa­tient cen­ters, walk-in med­i­cal cen­ters, pri­mary care and spe­cialty physi­cian prac­tices and more.

Dr. Rick Pal­mon, pres­i­dent of the Lee County Med­i­cal So­ci­ety, says: “With the open­ing of Lee Health at Co­conut Point, peo­ple liv­ing in south Lee County and North Naples will hav e ac­cess to qual­ity health care closer to home ... South Lee county has been med­i­cally un­der­served with the on­go­ing pop­u­la­tion and con­struc­tion boom that has oc­curred since the end of the re­ces­sion.

“Lee County physi­cians are ex­cited about the state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties, which will be com­plet­ing con­struc­tion soon. Es­tero and Bonita res­i­dents will not have to make the long drive up to ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties which will make health care more con­ve­nient and can be a life­saver for emer­gency vis­its.”

Dr. Larry An­tonucci, pres­i­dent and CEO of Lee Health, sums up the big pic­ture: “For more than 100 years, Lee Health has been car­ing for our com­mu­nity, and we have al­ways evolved and ex­panded to meet the health care needs of peo­ple through­out South­west Florida. South Lee County is one of the fastest grow­ing re­gions of South­west Florida, and we rec­og­nized years ago the need to im­prove, in­crease and en­hance ac­cess to care. Lee Health-Co­conut Point, in its cur- rent plan as a health and well­ness des­ti­na­tion with its 24/7 emer­gency ser­vices, surgery cen­ter, di­ag­nos­tic imag­ing and other an­cil­lary ser­vices, and med­i­cal com­plex for pri­mary and spe­cialty care physi­cians, or with the pro­posed hospi­tal tower that we have ap­plied for, will pro­vide needed ac­cess to care within the com­mu­nity.”

What comes next, af­ter the cen­ter opens and the hospi­tal sit­u­a­tion is re­solved? What will Lee Health do with the nearly 40 acres it bought next door, on U.S. High­way 41 just north of Co­conut Road? Maybe a res­i­den­tial se­nior liv­ing cen­ter?

Lee Health says: “... we have no spe­cific de­vel­op­ment plans for the land we just pur­chased. We will be­gin con­sid­er­ing op­tions af­ter Lee Health-Co­conut Point is com­pleted and in op­er­a­tion, as that fa­cil­ity has ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity, and we will be bet­ter able to re­view the de­mand for ser­vices.

“We know over time we will de­velop a vi­sion for the high­est and best use of the prop­erty—based on what the com­mu­nity says they want and need, and based on the no­tion of keep­ing peo­ple healthy and ac­tive ... we do know that it will build on the in­no­va­tion of Lee Health-Co­conut Point and in­cor­po­rate the same de­sign prin­ci­ples. And, just as we did with Lee Health-Co­conut Point, we will so­licit com­ments and sug­ges­tions from the com­mu­nity on ser­vices they would like us to con­sider in our plan for the prop­erty.”

Stay tuned for that as well as de­vel­op­ments at Co­conut Point, where Lee Health teams plan to start mov­ing in this win­ter and open in time for the peak-sea­son de­mands come spring. Jeff Ly­tle is the re­tired ed­i­to­rial page edi­tor and TV host from the Naples Daily News. He now lives in Bonita Springs.

Clock­wise from top left: Lee Health-Co­conut Point’s lobby will have a spe­cial spot for a pi­ano; the com­plex’s path­ways en­cour­age walk­ing, jog­ging and bi­cy­cling; the open, airy de­sign of the lobby al­lows for nat­u­ral light; the new fa­cil­ity’s ar­rival court.

Dr. Rick Pal­mon, pres­i­dent of the Lee County Med­i­cal So­ci­ety, and other county physi­cians are ex­cited about the state-of-the-art Lee Health-Co­conut Point fa­cil­ity, which will make health care more ac­ces­si­ble for an un­der­served area.

Clock­wise from top left: An ae­rial view of the site under con­struc­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2018; David Kis­tel, vice pres­i­dent for fa­cil­i­ties for Lee Health, presents plans for the lobby; the stand-alone emer­gency room on Lee Health’s new Es­tero cam­pus.

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