POINCIANA – After plenty of delays and setbacks that caused waves of anxiety to spread throughout the community, Poinciana finally has something that residents have been waiting years to get: a date for the groundbreaking on the community’s first hospital.
Officials from Osceola Regional Medical Center, the hospital in Kissimmee, will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the Poinciana Medical Center on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. The hospital’s senior management will join government leaders and Poinciana residents for the ceremony that marks the first step in construction of this long-awaited project.
“This is exciting news,” said Jeanette Coughenour, the manager of the Association of Poinciana Villages, the homeowner’s association that oversees the 10 villages in this community. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We’re ecstatic about the hospital. It’s a great thing to start the new year with.”
The hospital will be constructed on the corner of Cypress Parkway and Solivita Boulevard, right near the Solivita development. The first phase of the Medical Center, a Freestanding Emergency Department, is expected to open its doors in early 2013. The emergency department will be an 11,000-square-foot facility that has 12 examination rooms.
The main hospital will include a 16-slice CT, radiography and fluoroscopy room, ultrasound, laboratory, and pharmacy. There will also be an EMS entrance and helicopter pad for rapid transport of critically ill patients to Osceola Regional Medical Center, which is in downtown Kissimmee.
“We are eager to commence the anticipated phased hospital for the Poinciana community,” said Kathryn J. Gillette, the CEO of Osceola Regional. “The opening of the first phase with its Freestanding Emergency Department will greatly enhance access to quality medical care for the community, and provide a positive economic impact to the surrounding communities.”
Poinciana, one of the fastest growing communities in Central Florida over the past decade, now has more than 84,000 residents, according to the most recent U.S. Census count. But right now, if residents need to make a hospital visit, they have to travel outside of the community, often a 30 minute drive — or longer.
Poinciana is divided between Osceola and Polk counties. On the Osceola County side, the closest hospitals are Osceola Regional in Kissimmee and Celebration Hospital. On the Polk County side, the nearest hospital is Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Haines City.
Recognizing the need in this community, Osceola Regional decided to build the first hospital in Poinciana, but the hospital’s application to the state government was challenged by existing medical facilities in Haines City and St. Cloud — Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center and St. Cloud Regional Medical Center. Those facilities claimed that building a hospital in Poinciana would exacerbate an existing nursing shortage. Osceola Regional’s request for a certificate of need was twice rejected before the state finally approved the application.
By 2010, the recession and ongoing credit crunch made it difficult for Osceola Regional to secure the funding needed to start construction. During a town hall meeting in June 2010 with officials from Osceola Regional, Poinciana residents questioned whether this project would ever get off the ground. The hospital also faced another challenge: the certificate of need expires in the spring, meaning construction must begin by March or Osceola Regional will be forced to re-apply.
That’s why having a set date for the groundbreaking is so important, said Keith Laytham, the president of Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, a civic group working to improve the community.
“That’s a very good piece of news for the community,” Laytham said.
He gave credit to the non-defunct Friends of the Poinciana Hospital, a group of Poinciana residents that Laytham said worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure Osceola Regional remained committed to building this hospital.
“It’s been a long, long, hard battle, and frankly the community owes it to a whole bunch of residents who formed that hospital committee and worked so hard to make this happen,” Laytham said. “I think this is one of a number of good things that will happen to Poinciana in 2012. I think, obviously, the hospital is a very important piece of that, and with the hospital will come permanent medical jobs and construction jobs.”
Fernando Valverde, the founder of Friends of the Poinciana Hospital, called the groundbreaking date “a dream come true, representing much more than six years of agony and ecstasy. The hospital project is really a symbol of hope for the community, an example of what folks can accomplish by pulling together in one direction as a team.”
Despite the skeptics who dismissed the notion that the hospital would ever get built, the supporters who worked so tirelessly over the past few years proved them wrong, Valverde said.
“Now finally the hospital will prove that great things can be accomplished by ‘We the people,’ ” he said, adding that the medical center would provide “a better quality of life for all the residents and stakeholders in the entire region.”
There were certainly plenty of skeptics, Coughenour said.
“For so many people, when you ask them about the hospital, until they see something happening, there’s doubting thomases out there,” she said, adding that with the groundbreaking date to start off the year with, “There’s an excitement that will build in this community.”
This promises to be a massive project for a community that was very hard hit by the collapse of the housing market, and with it so many construction jobs.
Poinciana Medical Center will be a two-story, 90,000 square foot building with 24 private medical-surgical beds and a six-bed ICU. In support of both inpatient and outpatient care, the facility will provide a full range of acute care services including diagnostic imaging, inpatient and outpatient surgery, cardiac catheterization, laboratory, pharmacy, and a full range of support services.
The Poinciana Medical Center campus will include a freestanding “medical arts” office building with offices that will be leased for physicians and other healthcare providers. The anticipated economic boost to the community should be a solid one. The project is expected to cost $65 million to build, and, once fully operational, Poinciana Medical Center will employ 200 full time workers.
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