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East County Monday, Dec. 30, 2019 7 months ago

Lakewood Ranch Medical Center hopes to expand in the 2020s

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CEO expects the hospital to grow to keep up with the community's needs.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Twenty-one days after the new decade begins, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center will break ground on a freestanding emergency room at 6750 Fruitville Road, Sarasota.

The new facility is about the growth of Lakewood Ranch and the hospital's strategy to grow with it.

Waterside has stretched Lakewood Ranch into Sarasota County at University Parkway and south to Fruitville Road. It will have more than 5,000 homes at buildout.

Andy Guz, the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center CEO, notes that area at Fruitville Road and east of Interstate 75 has no such facility.

Whether it's Waterside or the 5,000 homes being added in Manatee County east of Lorraine Road, Guz said Lakewood Ranch Medical Center will be looking at opportunities to serve the community.

He also knows if the hospital doesn't respond to the growth, someone else will.

"Growth is the name of the game in Lakewood Ranch," Guz said. "It's not just the hospital. It's every business that serves Lakewood Ranch."

The free-standing, 18,000-square-foot emergency room, which is expected to open late in 2020, will provide emergency care 24-hours a day, seven days a week. it is the hospital's first venture outside its Lakewood Ranch campus.

"It has been our goal to create a true emergency room by including a full complement of services, staff and technology. We will be equipped to handle everything from scrapes and sprains, to patients who are experiencing chest pain and the symptoms of a stroke.”

The emergency room has to be linked with the hospital's license and will operated with the same policies and procedures. The hospital will add 10 to 15 employees to run the facility.

Guz confirmed the hospital will be seeking other opportunities off its campus in other areas of Lakewood Ranch as the need is identified. The hospital is part of the Universal Health Services and Manatee Health Care Systems.

"Every year we do a strategic plan," he said. "We sit down and see what the market needs. We look at what 10 years will do."

While Guz said a new hospital in Lakewood Ranch is unlikely in the next 10 years, he said it is likely Lakewood Ranch Medical Center will expand on its campus.

The hospital has 120 beds for admitted patients, the same number as when the hospital opened in 2004. As more programs and services are added to the hospital, the additional beds will be needed.

Guz said the hospital might add a wing in the next 10 years. The hospital currently is made up of three wings extending from the central base of the building. He said another wing, which would extend out in front of the hospital (toward Lakewood Ranch Boulevard) would make the hospital look like an X shape from above.

One of the factors driving growth decisions has been busier summers. The hospital sees 20% more patients during season, but that percentage is dwindling as the area's makeup contains fewer snowbirds.

Off campus, he said hospital system executives consider building an urgent care, physicians offices, an imaging center or another free-standing emergency room in the future. 

"We don't want to oversaturate," he said. "But we're very fortunate with Lakewood Ranch because we have a great relationship with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch and we know where the population will be. This is a unique situation, a community growing as rapidly as Lakewood Ranch and as well organized."

They also keep an eye on the competition will be.

"We don't want four ERs next to each other," he said. "Everyone wants to get a foothold in Lakewood Ranch."

As Lakewood Ranch Medical Center considers its options, it also will continue its outreach program to provide the public with information about hospital. Guz said the hospital in December agreed to extend its partnership with The Mall at University Town Center that originally started five years ago.

The new partnership begins Jan. 4 with the "New Year, New You" Health and Wellness Expo at the mall.

The expo runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes more than 50 vendors.

 

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