Growing up in Sebring, Diego Perilla said he understood what it meant to a community to not have adequate emergency medical services nearby.
As he followed a career that took him into medical administration, he became even more aware of the need.
So Perilla, the chief operating officer at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, was thrilled to walk through the ER at Fruitville Oct. 9 in advance of its Dec. 1 opening.
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center has expanded to include the ER at Fruitville, a 10,873-square-foot facility that will be an extension of the hospital's emergency room. It's location at 6750 Fruitville Road, just east of the intersection of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Fruitville Road, will provide care to an area identified as underserved by Lakewood Ranch Medical Center's parent company, Universal Health Services.
"We want to provide facilities where the community needs them most," Perilla said. "You will be able to get the same quality care you would get at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, expect much faster if you live near here. When it is an emergency situation, literally every minute is important. It could impact the outcome."
Besides the growth along Fruitville Road to the east of Interstate 75, the ER at Fruitville was built to serve the growing Waterside at Lakewood Ranch Community.
"We look at the future and Waterside is growing," he said. "We keep our finger on the pulse of our community. Where is growth happening? What is the right type of service to provide? Access to healthcare allows a county to grow."
John Holz, the Economic Development Committee chair for the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, said the ER at Fruitville is an important step in adding quality healthcare to the southern edge of Lakewood Ranch. He said it will be one more factor that will attract families to Lakewood Ranch.
Holz also said the ER at Fruitville, which will initially will have about 25 full-time employees, is another example of a business that offers "family supporting jobs." He said besides employing people who will live in Lakewood Ranch, those new residents will spend their money in local stores and restaurants.
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance held an Economic Showcase event Oct. 14 at the ER at Fruitville.
The new emergency room has a full lab, an x-ray room, a CT scan, six patient rooms and isolation rooms, among other features.
"This will be staffed 24-7 with a board certified emergency physician," Perilla said. "The care will be delivered on site, any procedure you need."
Perilla stressed that it is an emergency room, not an urgent care center. He said urgent care centers aren't equipped to take care of true emergencies.
He also said plans are being made to construct a helipad on site.
Perilla only has been assigned to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center for three months. Before he was the hospital administrator at Wellington Regional Medical Center, which expanded in 2019 by adding the ER at Westlake. That building was designed by Giattina Aycock Architecture of Alabama, which also designed the ER at Fruitville.
Both ERs were designed with an open layout inside so nurses could keep an eye on the patients at all times. While they share many of the same capabilities, Perilla said the ER of Fruitville has benefitted from some of the lessons learned from the construction of the Westlake facility.
An example is how the decontamination rooms were built at Fruitville, close to the ambulance's access point.
Fred Yeager, a senior vice president for Giattina Aycock Architecture, said while some of the Westlake facility was built on site, the entire ER at Fruitville building was assembled with modules off site.