LAKE NONA--Deborah German, MD, is checking off another item on the impressive todo list she compiled in 2009 as founding dean of the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine: to establish a hospital that advances teaching and clinical research programs.
Before the end of 2018, construction is slated to begin on UCF Lake Nona Medical Center, with a January 21, 2019 deadline for site preparation, foundation permit, footprint completion and foundation forming, with placement of concrete and steel for the facility.
Last month, Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) gave its final stamp of certificate-of-need approval on the project. The 100-bed medical/surgical hospital is slated to open by the end of 2020.
The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 12 public universities, approved the public-private hospital after AHCA green-lighted the preliminary certificate of need in March.
"This hospital and its research mission are part of the economic impact we promised the community when the medical school was built," said German, also UCF's vice president for medical affairs. "In the United States and around the world, the best health systems have an academic component at their heart and the best medical schools have teaching hospitals."
UCF President John C. Hitt calls the hospital project one of UCF's most important decisions of the decade. "We look forward to strengthening our community's health, training more doctors, and powering economic growth through research," he said, adding the College of Medicine is at full enrollment, with 480 students.
The Board of Governors' approval allows UCF to grow the hospital to up to 500 beds without further approval.
HCA North Florida Division will provide $175 million to build and begin operating the hospital, while UCF will contribute its strong academic brand and 25 acres of land adjacent to the medical school the university acquired in 2012. UCF will have 20 percent ownership in addition to equal governance. The eight-member governing board will have four each HCA- and UCF/College of Medicine-appointed members.
No state dollars will be used to build the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center.
The hospital project exemplifies HCA North Florida's strategy to meet the fast-growing region's needs through new facilities and services, said Michael P. Joyce, FACHE, president of HCA's North Florida Division. "We're excited to expand our partnership with UCF in the development of a new hospital in Lake Nona," he said.
Two years ago, UCF and HCA formed a consortium to boost much-needed residency programs in the heart of Florida. Since 2015, the partnership has reaped 14 new residency programs and one new fellowship in HCA's North Florida Division hospitals in Gainesville, Kissimmee and Ocala.
"We just started our first fellowship in endocrinology," said UCF College of Medicine spokesperson Wendy Sarrubi. "Once the new hospital reaches as many beds and patients as needed, it will give us an opportunity for even more residency programs."
The consortium's residency programs represent 250 physicians-in-training. By the time the hospital opens in 2020, additional resident physicians are anticipated.
Benefits for Medical Education
"Our students right now do their third and fourth year clerkships with partner hospitals like Orlando Health, Florida Hospital. They're at Heart of Florida in Davenport, they're in Flagler, in St. Pete, they're at Bay Pines, VA Center in St. Pete. Flagler's in Saint Augustine.
"They're all over and we think that's an important part of our training. They're also here at the VA and here at Nemours because the more diverse experiences they have the better so they can see different kinds of hospitals, different patient populations, different business models so that won't change with this new hospital. We want our students to be at partner hospitals all across the community and all across the state, frankly. This will give us additional opportunities for medical students right next door," said Sarubbi.
"Our goal is to be partners with everybody and to really ensure that our students have that diverse experience because it's invaluable. It gives them so many different experiences and different electronic health records and different patient tools. Every med student at UCF spends time in their training caring for veterans, our nation's heroes. That's important to us. We need them to be in diverse locations to see the excellent care in this community and to have all those experiences to learn from it."
Increased research, interprofessional education opportunities, open hospital privileges, and bridging the gap of adult care in Lake Nona are among additional benefits the new hospital will bring to the community.
Despite scant speculation otherwise, UCF College of Medicine"s clinical research expansion isn't tied to the absence of Lake Nona neighbor Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Institute.
"We've been talking about establishing a hospital at the medical school since it was founded," said Sarrubi. "In partnership with HCA, the hospital will give us a site to truly expand our clinical research and more translational research between the basic science that's being conducted at our Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences."
The hospital will also expand opportunities for interprofessional education via a living-learning lab to train medical, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy and social work students in team-building and communication skills. "Medicine is a team sport and students can see the importance of it in caring for patients," said Sarrubi.
Importantly, the new facility will have an open process for physicians to access hospital privileges, emphasized Sarrubi, adding that non-HCA and College of Medicine physicians will work side by side with independent and other hospital-employed physicians.
"Dr. German has said repeatedly that our goal is to continue to partner with every hospital and to expand those partnerships," said Sarrubi. "We believe the new hospital will help in those areas."
The hospital will also bridge the gap of community patient care not being served by Lake Nona"s Orlando VA Medical Center and Nemours Children's Hospital. The Orlando metropolitan area is among the nation's fastest growing cities and Lake Nona has been recognized among the nation's 10 fastest-growing communities.