- February 15, 2018
Longboat Key could have a doctor in the house next season — that is, if the Longboat Key Foundation reaches a $1.6 million fundraising goal by October.
The Longboat Key Foundation announced Tuesday it’s kicked off a campaign in private funding it hopes to raise by October to open a new medical facility called Longboat Key Center for Healthy Living by next season.
Longboat Key Foundation Chairman Bob Simmons told the Longboat Observer Monday the funds would establish a medical practice and a Key medical facility on the Key on or near the vicinity of Bay Isles Road and Bay Isles Parkway. The money will pay for a building lease, the build-out of the facility and two years worth of start-up and operating costs for use only on an as needed basis to run the facility year-round (see sidebar).
“We’ve interviewed a variety of doctors, and we’ve settled on one and have an agreement in principle,” Simmons said. “We’ve also been circling an area where we want to locate the medical center and would like it near or a part of the future town center. Now we just have to raise the private funds and we have some private donors lined up already for this initiative.”
Simmons said the foundation is hopeful the center will be open by the end of the year or January 2016 if the funds are raised by October.
“We can do a build out in 60 to 90 days and be ready by season,” Simmons said.
The center will offer primary health care services, which have not been available on Longboat Key since the Key’s sole primary doctor, Dr. Pamela Letts, retired in May 2014.
“I can’t believe it’s been more than a year with no primary doctor on the Key,” Simmons said. “We think it’s critical to get a doctor back on the island, especially with the heavy traffic residents are seeing in season when they try to get to the mainland to see a physician.”
“We think it’s critical to get a doctor back on the island, especially with the heavy traffic residents are seeing in season when they try to get to the mainland to see a physician.”
— Longboat Key Foundation Chairman Bob Simmons
In a news release distributed Tuesday, the foundation released its statement of community need for the center, explaining the island “must restore and enhance the health care services available on Longboat Key to better serve residents and visitors, improve our self-sufficiency as a community and enable residents to remain on the Key as they age.”
Although Simmons declined to reveal the potential location for the future medical center, he said the facility will have medical and wellness services under one roof on or near Bay Isles Road and will house practitioners specializing in family medicine and other services.
The Center for Healthy Living, Simmons said, would complement a Sarasota Memorial Hospital medical center planned for St. Armands Circle.
“A new primary medical care practice on Longboat Key will add to the quality of medical care in our region,” said Sarasota Memorial Healthcare CEO David Verinder, in a prepared statement. “It is especially useful as a back up to primary care practice if we were unable to accommodate same-day appointments and as a less costly alternative to an emergency room visit. “
Since the foundation was formed in late 2013, it has worked to create a non-profit organization that laid the groundwork for a Key medical center, identified and interviewed potential doctors, found potential locations for the center and developed a business model that provides for a privately funded operational subsidy.
Other island communities with seasonal populations that house medical centers operate on similar models, which call for additional private funds as needed to operate in summer months when waiting room patients shrink dramatically.
For instance, the Gasparilla Island village of Boca Grande, which has a 3,000 year-round and seasonal population that shrinks to 900 residents in the summer, operates the Boca Grande Health Clinic by using a foundation as needed to subsidize the notprofit clinic to sustain medical care services year-round.
“Its private dollars raised by residents to help keep the medical center’s business model operational as needed year-round,” Simmons said.
The medical center will house more than a family medicine practice. The foundation’s goal is for the center to also house women’s health wellness and specialized care, behavioral heath services, on-site lab and imaging services and specialist services that may include the Roskamp’s Institute’s Sci-Brain program, which was developed to help improve brain health and reduce factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Nicki Kobritz, chief executive officer of Sci-Brain, issued a statement that says she is excited by the prospect of bringing the program to the Key.
“Locating (the program) at the proposed Center for Healthy Living would allow us to help Longboat Key residents reduce the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, while preserving and optimizing their cognitive capabilities and neural functions,” Kobritz said in a prepared statement.
David Brenner, a founder and board member of the Longboat Key Foundation, called the addition of Sci-Brain to a Key medical center “a terrific complement with a population that would benefit from such services.”
Although the foundation’s top priority is a medical center, it also seeks to be involved with an arts and cultural building if a town center becomes a reality.
The foundation was established through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and exists “for the sole support and benefit of exclusively charitable purposes in and for the benefit of Longboat Key and its residents,” according to its fund agreement with CFSC. Contributions to the Longboat Key Foundation are tax-deductible.