Leaving Longboat Key, especially in the middle of season, has become an unwanted chore, but with the lack of any medical facilities on the Key, residents have to go to Sarasota or Bradenton for their health needs. However, on March 31, that will change when The Longboat Key Center for Healthy Living opens at the Centre Shops, 5370 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“I don’t see our traffic situation getting better any time soon,” said Bob Simmons, chairman of the Longboat Key Foundation, which created the medical center. “I have felt strongly for some time that we need the self-sufficiency of having medical facilities on Longboat. You only have to get caught in traffic a few times going over the bridge to realize how great it will be to go down the street and not have to be at the mercy of going over the bridge.”
AllCare Medical Centers, a family-owned practice with offices in Lakewood Ranch and Venice, will expand to Longboat Key and to offer primary and urgent care, women’s health, behavioral health and on-site lab and imaging services.
The centers’ principals are Dr. Matthew Nessetti, a board-certified family physician, medical psychologist and psychopharmacologist, and OB-GYN Dr. Doris Ramirez Nessetti. Dr. Irwin “Irv” Becker, a Longboat Key resident, and physician assistant Anne Marie Dozier will be based at the Longboat Key office.
Many have complained about the health care void left when Dr. Pamela Letts retired from her Centre Shops Family Practice and Urgent Care. The medical center will be in the same location as Dr. Letts' office but will have a bigger space.
“Originally when we moved here, Dr. Matt (Nessetti) worked out there with Dr. Letts during season, and he fell in love with Longboat Key, and he’s always had his heart set on going back,” said AllCare practice administrator Kelly Nessetti. “He wants to provide good medicine, and he’s excited about being able to give that to Longboat because there isn’t anybody out there anymore.”
When then-Vice Mayor David Brenner, former Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Tom Aposporos and then-Mayor Jim Brown founded the Longboat Key Foundation with the goal of improving the quality of life of Longboat Key residents, one of its first missions was to establish a medical center. The foundation has since raised $600,000 for the clinic.
"We took a view that said what is the absolute worst case in two years, which would be if no patients show up," Brenner said. "If that happens, we would need $600,000 to sustain us over two years. We have patients who are paying, whether through insurance or Medicare, so all the money likely will not be needed. The $600,000 is very conservative, but it's one of those cases where you need to be."
After two years, Brenner believes the facility will sustain itself.
In addition to AllCare, the medical center will include the Center for Brain Health, which specializes in promoting brain health and performance.
“Being able to have that service as an adjunct to routine medical care results in a very comprehensive program that helps clients,” said Center for Brain Health CEO Nicci Kobritz.
A major focus of the brain center is identifying and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“In a community like Longboat where the average age is something above 70, mental health in some cases may be more important than physical health,” Brenner said.
Fitness Quest Physical Therapy will also bring physical therapists to the center.
“We wanted to offer physical therapy to people on the island so they wouldn’t have to travel so far,” said Fitness Quest founder and CEO Jason Nippert. “They won’t have to drive off the island any more.”
Simmons believes the 2,800-square-foot location in the Centre Shops will be temporary.
“We just wanted to get this open this year,” Simmons said. “Once our team gets going, we may outgrow where we are fairly quickly. With time and money, maybe in a few years, we can move closer to the new town center.”
The medical center also announced its board of directors, President Dr. Jack Rozance, a board-certified neurologist; Vice President Cynthia Craig, an attorney; Treasurer Kenneth Gorman, an entrepreneur; Secretary Dale Strohl, a retired executive; and Director Dr. Kenneth Newmark, a retired board-certified physician.
“Not having a doctor on Longboat is an imperfection in an otherwise perfect place we live,” Craig said. “The convenience of the center cannot be overstated. They can be your primary physicians; they can be your immediate care. If you’ve got the flu or you stepped on a sea urchin or you have food poisoning, you don’t have to sit in traffic ill, sick or bleeding. Unless it’s an emergency and you need to go to the hospital, you don’t have to sit in traffic to get medical health.”
The center will accept most insurances and Medicare.