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New hospital inaugurated with celebration

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image After years of effort, hospital executives and elected officials were able to celebrate the formal beginning of St. Joseph’s Hospital-South on its 72-acre Big Bend Road campus. Photo Melody Jameson

Elected representatives, chamber of commerce executives, local community leaders and hospital managers assembled Wednesday morning (October 17) at the new facility’s digs on Big Bend Road.

By MELODY JAMESON

Forecasting a future as bright as the morning sun overhead, leaders from around the South County celebrated official beginning of St. Joseph’s Hospital –South last week on its centralized site.

Elected representatives, chamber of commerce executives, local community leaders and hospital managers assembled Wednesday morning (October 17) at the new facility’s digs on Big Bend Road at Simmons Loop to recognize both the road they’ve traveled the last half dozen years to get there and the future the hospital foretells for the surrounding area.

Then, eight of them grabbed shovels and, with a recently-silenced grading machine for a backdrop, ceremoniously turned the dirt to initiate construction of the 352,000-square-foot regional medical facility central to the constellation of South County communities around it.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who grew up in Tampa and now sits on health care committees in the U.S. House of Representatives, recalled how she was treated at the original St. Joseph’s Hospital on West Buffalo Avenue as a four-year-old sustaining a cut after an accident on her tricycle.

She went on to say “think about it: $225 million invested here and the ripple effect that will have.” During the two to 2.5 year- construction phase, some 300 to 400 jobs are to be created as a free-standing, 40,000 square-foot medical office building takes shape, followed by the four-story hospital itself designed in a broad curving conformation plus a connected 80,000- square-foot medical testing and office structure.

Small businesses throughout the area will be boosted, different types of medical personnel will relocate to the area and their families will grow up here, Castor said. “This hospital is going to be an anchor for economic development,” she declared, “ for the SouthShore community and for all of Southern Hillsborough County.”

Hospital president and CEO Isaac Mallah noted that his staff worked more than seven years to get approvals necessary to build the facility on land acquired in the 1980s by the hospital’s visionaries. “I am struck by what it took to get here,” he asserted, adding it’s “thanks to the perseverance of our team and the great support of our neighbors and friends from here to Sun City Center.”

The sentiment was echoed by Jim Duffy, SCC leader and very early advocate for keeping South Bay Hospital in its present location for the local population and for locating St. Joseph’s on Big Bend as a regional medical center with a broader scope serving a wider area. “It has been a long and complex effort, with a happy ending,” he said.

Duffy also credited Ronda Storms, state senator representing the South and East County, who “worked hard for the community,” and noted that Hillsborough County commissioners passed a resolution calling for keeping South Bay in Sun City Center that was forwarded to the state’s governor and to the state Agency on Healthcare Administration. “I think this really got the attention of the folks in Tallahassee,” he added.

Residents of Sun City Center should “be proud of their success,” Duffy asserted. “It was a great community effort. The reward is a new regional hospital and an improved community hospital.”

Ed Barnes, president of the SCC Community Association, also expressed satisfaction that the two hospitals less than 10 miles apart are situated to serve the myriad needs of the retirement population as well as meet the medical requirements of the surrounding area. “I support the existing South Bay community hospital,” he said, and “think this new hospital will mean expanded medical care.” The situation means “an influx of new doctors to the area” plus “an alternative source of medical care” to help serve the anticipated growth over the next 10 years, he summed up.

And medical care is the first mission, emphasized Sister Patricia Shirley OSF, a member of one of the two orders of nuns that have supported St. Joseph’s throughout its history. Currently vice president of mission services, she reminded the assembly “We build a community of women and men who are committed to serve, to use their hearts and their hands for healing.”

St. Joseph’s-South is expected to open as a 112-bed acute care facility in 2015 on its 72-acre campus a half mile east of I-75, offering a wide range of medical specialties. Its private patient suites will include a 14-bed mother-baby unit with private rooms for the newborn, the new parents and family, a 16-bed intensive care section, multiple surgical suites designated for general, orthopedic, urological, women’s and cardiac catheterization procedures and a full-service medical emergency center.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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