Senior health care center remains on front burner

Published on: February 23, 2011


SUN CITY CENTER – Steps being taken toward a multi-faceted senior health care center here are forecasting a future outline of the unique facility.

On one hand, practitioners in a key specialty of particular interest to seniors – mental health – are pulling together a set of procedures anticipated to be beneficial to patients, and more. On the other, a high-powered panel of teaching medical professionals from the University of South Florida and hospital executives associated with Hospital Corporation of America along with its South Bay unit continues work ironing out myriad details, exploring new potential aspects as they await confirmation of 501(c)3 non-profit status.

In short, those engaged in the work indicate, the complexities involved in creating from the local ground up a multiple discipline center dedicated to senior health and encompassing treatment, research as well as teaching components gradually are coming together – developing from wistful past conversations to reality supported by shared resources.

One facet that could be central to the senior health center prism now is being closely examined by a new taskforce, indicated Dr. Ken Barringer, SCC resident, clinical psychologist, and one of the original center advocates. Barringer, who said he’s trying to devote more time to retirement, noted their focus currently is a set of local procedures to facilitate the Baker Act process when it becomes necessary.

Nicknamed for Maxine Baker, a former legislator in Florida’s House of Representatives who sponsored the bill, the legislation that became Chapter 394.451, Florida Statutes, or the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, defines care of persons with mental health problems requiring intervention. The law allows for involuntary examination of a person who has a mental illness as defined in the act and who poses harm to others or to self. The law also covers the individual who is self neglectful due to mental illness as defined in the act. It does not cover persons with organic disease such as Alzheimer’s patients. The process can be set in motion, based on the evidence, by judges, law enforcement personnel, physicians or mental health professionals.

Many years ago, persons deemed to be mentally ill were taken to hospitals often not equipped to deal with such patients’ problems. Advancement in the procedures came when, upon enactment of the legislation, those persons in South Hillsborough frequently could be transported by sheriff’s deputies to the county’s Mental Health Center in East Tampa, explained Deputy Dave Cappel, one of two Baker Act coordinators now working in District IV, encompassing the South County. If such individuals sustained physical injuries, they would be taken to the nearest hospital emergency room, Cappel added.

But, since the Baker Act allows confining committed individuals for up to 72 hours, the arrangement also could mean at least one 70-mile round trip for a deputy, perhaps even more trips for any family members or other parties close to the mentally ill persons from South County communities, plus yet possibly more inconvenience when individuals were released from the mental health center.

Both Cappel and Barringer suggested that the next advance in procedures covering disposition or treatment or both of the mentally ill based in South Hillsborough could be beneficial to all concerned. It is these procedures that Edmund Dubreuil, a licensed social worker and Apollo Beach resident, along with a SCC attorney, a local accountant, and a Riverview therapist, now are hammering out, Barringer said.

They also could be pertinent to the senior health care center in the long term. Ed Barnes, current president of the Sun City Center Community Association and chairman of the advisory panel driving the center’s development, noted that many of the physicians on the panel also may practice at the center when it comes to fruition, including the mental health specialists.

The panel behind the senior health center now consists of both managers and physicians, plus local residents, Barnes said. Representing HCA and South Bay Hospital are hospital CEO Sharon Roush, Beemal Shah, the hospital’s chief operating officer, Matt Marshall, an HCA assistant vice president for senior care services, and Dr. Jocelyn Bueno, chief of internal medicine.

Bringing the university’s College of Medicine to the mix are Dr. Robert Belsole, vice dean for clinical affairs and USF Physicians Group CEO, Dr. Allan Goldman, professor and chairman of the internal medicine department, Dr. William S. Quillen, physical therapist and associate dean of the School of Physical Therapy, Dr. William Kearns, assistant professor in the Department of Aging and Mental Health, and Richard A. Green, an executive directing both the physicians group and Centers for Advanced Healthcare.

Yet another medical services manager in the group is Stephen Lucas, former director of Tampa’s James A. Haley VA hospital where many South County veterans including SCC retirees currently obtain treatment.

With Lucas’ help, the panel also now is looking into the possibility of VA participation in the project, Barnes added.

In addition to Barnes, the SCC community leaders taking part in the project planning are H. Spencer Faircloth, Greater Sun City Center Community Foundation director, Kings Point Condominium Association President Charles Hassell, Claire Robinson, retired USF associate vice president for future technology, Robert G. Black, SCC CA vice president, and Janet Wilson, former CA director. Dr. Pat Crow, among the first to foresee the benefits of combining the retirement community with a multi-faceted senior health care facility, also remains actively involved, Barnes added.

The CA president termed the caliber of the professionals recruited by Crow for the advisory group “remarkable. It speaks well of our community,” Barnes said. “an indication that a senior health center is needed, and that Sun City Center is uniquely qualified to be its site.”

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson