Why Health Central Hospital Is Spending $100M To Expand In West Orange County

Mar 23, 2016

Health Central is starting a $100 million dollar expansion this year.

Officials said the big picture plan is to turn Health Central in Ocoee into a destination medical campus. Orlando Health CEO David Strong said the project will add a new cancer center, a new nursing home and a freestanding emergency room in Horizon West.

“It will transform this property from really a single hospital into a destination medical campus, as well as bring necessary medical services to the Horizons West community,” Strong said.

Health Central is already expanding its ER expansion and adding a new bed tower, a project that will open this summer. Now, they will also replace a 1960s-era nursing home and add a new cancer center to the Health Central campus in Ocoee.

Greg Ohe, current president of Health Central, said there’s an existing cancer center across from Health Central.

“But that cancer center is starting to bump up into some capacity issues,” Ohe said. “So the thinking with the new center is we’ll double its capacity so we can accommodate the cancer needs of this community.”

But the third project could have the most impact long-term: a freestanding emergency room in the growing Horizon West area.

I asked Tracy Swanson, executive director of the West Orange Healthcare District, if the new ER is the precursor for a new hospital.

“Yes, there is plenty of land out there, but at this point, we’re thinking long-range in terms of as the community grows out there, the potential is there,” Swanson said.

Critics of the health district, which used to own Health Central before it was sold to Orlando Health in 2012 for $185 million, say the district spends too much money on Orlando Health projects. Swanson said there was a seven-year non-compete in the sale that prevents them from funding Florida Hospital projects.

“When it comes to serving the under-served and the indigent, all hospitals can come and ask for support,” Swanson said. “And as we launch Healthy West Orange, we look forward to having Florida Hospital be a key partner in improving the health and well being of the citizens of west Orange.”

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Reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.