Baldwin Park Brings Access To Patients

Dated: 10/12/2017

Views: 745

By the end of next year, Central Florida will be home to three new free-standing emergency rooms and four additional urgent care centers, all projects of HCA, one of the largest for-profit health care companies in the nation.

“Our goal is to bring access to the patient,” said Jake Kirchner, regional vice president for planning and development at HCA’s North Florida Division, which has been growing its presence here steadily. “As the demographic grows, so does the need for emergent care.”

The emergency rooms are planned for Baldwin Park and the Millennia area in Orange County, and on International Parkway in Seminole County.

The company’s urgent care arm, which is under the CareNow brand name, already has its first location open in Winter Springs. HCA plans to build two more in Seminole County — in Sanford and Lake Mary — and two in Orange County on Alafaya Trail and in Winter Park, by the end of 2018.

“We evaluated the market and saw that there’s a demand,” Kirchner said.

These projects add to the growing number of existing free-standing emergency rooms and urgent care centers in Central Florida, courtesy of Florida Hospital and Orlando Health.

It’s all part of a move from inpatient to outpatient care, driven by advancements in technology, cost and consumer-driven care, said Ken Peach, executive director of the Health Council of East Central Florida.

“But you have to be careful about how you shop as a consumer,” he said. “Freestanding ERs are priced as hospital ER pricing, so it’s more expensive than going to urgent care.”

Free-standing emergency rooms and urgent care centers are required to be built within 35 miles of a hospital.

Some, such as HCA’s Oviedo facility, start with a free-standing ER and later build the hospital when they can show the need.

Orlando Health has taken the approach of creating “health pavilions” around its free-standing ERs in the Dr. Phillips area and Winter Garden Vineland Road by adding services such as imaging, physician office buildings or what’s in demand for the area’s population.

Another emerging trend, yet to arrive in Central Florida, is the micro-hospital concept, where health systems tack a 6- to 8-bed hospital onto the freestanding emergency room.

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Meanwhile, each health system in Orlando now has its own chain of urgent care centers, besides several others that are not owned by the hospitals. Florida Blue, one of the largest health insurers in the state, recently got into the game by opening GuideWell Emergency Doctors in Winter Park and Semoran, combining emergency medicine with urgent care.

“The one consistent thing in these is creating an outpatient model to make it more convenient for consumers to get to care,” said Peach.

Kirchner said there are no plans to build hospitals near HCA’s upcoming free-standing emergency rooms, but “if we open them and it seems like the transfer rates [to hospitals] are high, we might think about bringing an inpatient model close to them,” he said.

In its rezoning application earlier this year for the International Parkway site, the company asked for permission to build a hospital, a helipad and a medical office building as well as a freestanding emergency room.

Several nearby communities and residents opposed the application at the time, citing concerns with increased traffic and noise.

Kirchner said the projects’ groundbreaking dates have not been set and it too soon to say how many jobs will be created.

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Tim Morgan