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Florida Hospital Plans Expansion Into Lakeland Area With Land Purchase

Florida Hospital has purchased about 100 acres along Interstate 4 in Lakeland where it plans to build a freestanding emergency room and eventually a 200-bed hospital.

The company purchased the property, which is just west of Florida Polytechnic University, for $14.5 million over the summer.

Florida Hospital, owned by Adventist Health System, operates more than 25 hospitals and clinics throughout Central Florida but none in the Lakeland area.

Spokeswoman Richelle Hoenes-Ahern says data shows patients from Polk County are traveling to Tampa and Orlando to use Florida Hospital facilities there. 

“What better way to serve them than to put something closer to those Polk County residents so they are not having to travel to Tampa and to Orlando for their care with Florida Hospital physicians?” Hoenes-Ahern said.

The company will start by building a freestanding emergency room, similar to a facility recently opened in Palm Harbor, she said. That 18,500-square-foot facility has 24 beds and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

Hoenes-Ahern says the company has not filed any permits to begin construction. The timeline, she says, will depend on need, based on the area's growth.

“At this point, it’s just a land acquisition,” she said.

The plans for a hospital are at least 10 years out, she said.

Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center is the only hospital that serves the Lakeland area. It is the fifth largest hospital in Florida with 849 beds.

Florida hospital would need a certificate of need from the state before building a hospital in the Lakeland area.

“We want to be complementary to health care that is already there serving the community,” Hoenes-Ahern said.

Growth around the Lakeland area drove the company to purchase the property, Florida Hospital President and CEO Mike Schultz said in a statement.

“There is a tremendous amount of new growth happening in the Lakeland and Auburndale area, and our goal is to provide greater healthcare access and convenience to the people living along the I-4 corridor, while better connecting the existing Florida Hospital network of care between the Tampa and Orlando markets,” Schultz said. “Our objective is to better serve the community and connect them to the right level of care, when and where they need it the most.”

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.