UF Health North to build second hospital tower at Jacksonville campus

2022-04-02 09:54:16 By : Ms. Candy Tang

The parking lot next to Thursday's groundbreaking for UF Health North's second hospital tower, a $210 million project, was packed with patient and family cars with almost no room for those attending the event.

The packed lot provided just a glimpse of the need for the planned 124-bed tower next to UF Health North's first 92-bed hospital.

There was plenty of empty land nearby when ground was broken in 2013 for the medical facility at 15255 Max Leggett Parkway. But since the emergency room opened there in 2015, followed by the first hospital tower two years later, it's has been a very busy place, Vice President Wayne Marshall said.

First phase: UF Health North, including an emergency room, opens

UF Health Jacksonville: 3 new emergency and urgent care centers to improve health care access

"Since then, our emergency room has seen 40,000 patients," Marshall said. "We are seeing 4,500 elective surgery outpatients, and we have completed nearly 80,000 specialty clinic visits. That's a whole lot going on, and the reason why we need the new bed tower."

Surrounded now by hotels, shopping centers and subdivisions, and within 4 miles of Jacksonville International Airport and a big industrial park, the need is there for the hospital's second phase, said state Sen Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.

"The first word is awesome, as is the importance of the hospital being on this side of the city," said Gibson, who represents much of the area the hospital serves.

"The innovations that they are talking about here that can help people make decisions before they go to the ER is very critical," she added. "And it will help to eliminate health care disparities in our community, which is absolutely primary. The growth in this area has been tremendous, for which I am certainly grateful." 

The new inpatient hospital will be built directly behind the existing $140 million tower that has an adult and pediatric emergency center, 12 labor and delivery suites, two obstetric operating rooms and a separate medical office building. That was two years after the opening of a medical office building with an emergency room and outpatient surgery and diagnostic services.

The new six-story tower's cost will include some renovations and updates in the medical office building and first hospital tower, officials said.

The new hospital will include two floors dedicated to acute care and another for hospital services. All 124 hospital beds will be capable of handling intensive-care patients. And two floors of the new project will be dedicated to inpatient rehabilitation services, with 48 beds, a gymnasium and a rooftop facility to aid those recovering from surgery, Marshall said.

"That is actually a fitness area for them to walk on different surfaces," he said. "We will have some cobblestones; we will have some grass and all that."

When they gathered in 2013 to break ground on the first building there, UF Health Jacksonville CEO Russ Armistead joked that there were just a few cows around and not much else. 

"It was pretty rural, and we were hoping that this would be a success," Armistead said. "Being here today is kind of like my wildest dream." 

"I am not sure that anyone thought this part of Northeast Florida was going to grow so quickly so that we needed that second bed tower and the forethought of others to anticipate that we may need a third bed tower," said Linda Edwards, dean of Jacksonville's UF College of Medicine. "We have been welcomed with open arms by the community, and we are so thankful for that."

UF Health President David Nelson reiterated what it all means.

"In the end, it's all about the local, and the local is here today," he said. "It's a commitment to Jacksonville and its community, and a big investment by many people in time, effort and money, and I just want to say thank you."

The new facility should open in the second quarter of 2024. It joins UF Health Jacksonville's three free-standing, combined emergency and urgent care centers. Those are at 11277 New Kings Road at Dunn Village shopping center in Northwest Jacksonville; 888 S. Lane Ave. on the Westside; and 11251 Lamb Tail Lane in Campfield Commons in Baymeadows.

Hospital officials said more UF Health facilities are coming. A fourth emergency and urgent care center could be open soon, with a UF Health East surgery center planned in the Butler Boulevard and Kernan Road area.

The state budget just approved in Tallahassee also includes $80 million to build a new trauma center for UF Health Jacksonville's main hospital at 655 W. Eigth St. It will be named in honor of the late Leon Haley Jr., who was CEO at the hospital until his death last summer in a watercraft accident.

Nelson also told the audience at Thursday's groundbreaking that UF Health is expanding outside of Gainesville and Jacksonville, planning facilities in The Villages and the Palm Beach area.