After Jonathan Fleece, the president and CEO of Stratum Health System and Tidewell Hospice, took over his new role Oct. 1, he came to a realization.
"I feel like I have been a puzzle piece my whole life," he said from his Sarasota office. "And now I know where I fit."
A former managing partner and health care attorney for Blalock Walters, Fleece's expertise should help Stratum and Tidewell transition into an important period of growth.
One of his first priorities on his new job will be opening the Tidewell Hospice House in Lakewood Ranch.
The Lakewood Ranch facility, at 11535 Rangeland Parkway, celebrated a ribbon cutting March 9 with Tidewell executives saying it would take about a month before industry certifications were complete and patients would be admitted.
The 14,900-square-foot building still has not opened its doors.
Fleece, who is 51, said Tidewell Hospice has faced some challenges getting its license from Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration due to an additional emergency generator switch being needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Those changes occurred after the Lakewood Ranch facility was built.
Although the delays have caused some frustration, Fleece said Tidewell Hospice wants to make sure the facility is built to "the highest of standards." He said he hopes the Lakewood Ranch facility opens in the next few months.
Meanwhile, he said Tidewell Hospice's facilities in Ellenton and Sarasota are not operating at capacity and are able to accept any patients living in the Lakewood Ranch area.
"Lakewood Ranch was built more for anticipated growth," he said. "It was built for convenience (for those living in the Lakewood Ranch area)."
Currently, no staff members or volunteers are working at the Lakewood Ranch facility, which was Tidewell Hospice's first new building since it opened Arcadia in 2007, but the air conditioning does need to run so there is overhead.
He also emphasized that 90 percent of the care offered by Tidewell Hospice and Stratum Health System comes in the home and Lakewood Ranch is being served in that capacity.
When the $5 million Lakewood Ranch facility opens, it will offer 12 beds and space for a 12-bed expansion in the future.
Another of Fleece's priorities will be the integration of Stratum Health System subsidiaries, Approved Home Health, Connexis Medical Services and Avidity Home Health. Fleece does not want the companies being considered as separate operations. He wants those seeking care to understand they have several options with Stratum Health.
His other priority will be to "walk hand-in-hand with my colleagues and our donors," he said.
Fleece has been a member of the Stratum and Tidewell board since 2009.
"The primary reason I joined the board was we (his wife is Amy Mattina-Fleece) lost our infant daughter (Catherine Bette), who had a fatal heart defect," Fleece said. "I was looking to recover and the way I chose to heal was to serve others. The mission of Stratum and Tidewell is comfort and compassionate care, and that becomes part of who you are."
The Fleeces have three children, 18-year-old Nathan, 17-year-old Anna and 15-year-old Colin.
Stratum Health hired him after a nationwide search that took almost a year. He succeeded Stratum and Tidwell CEO Gerard Radford, who retired.
He used a Mark Twain quote to express the way he felt when he was hired.
"The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you learn why you were born. I am honored, excited and humbled to get this job. Every day I get up, I want to change the world through health care, one patient, one family at a time."