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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 14, 2017 1 year ago

Doctors' Orders

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A $14 million project at a Tampa hospital is a precursor to more growth.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

Memorial Hospital of Tampa has been treating patients since 1972. While its history is important, the hospital knows it also needs to focus on the future to stay competitive.

That's why it recently spent $14 million to build a new surgical center. That investment gave the hospital 18,500 square feet of additional surgical space, two state-of-the-art operating rooms and 17 pre- and post-op patient bays.

Opened last April, the Surgical Center improves the hospital's functionality and serves as a valuable tool for both staff recruitment and expansion of its surgical services.

“Physicians want to bring patients into and work in a facility that is nice,” says Memorial Hospital of Tampa CEO Sonia Wellman. “Staff want the same thing — to work in an environment with good technology that flows well and is customer- and staff-friendly.”

The new operating rooms are about 625 square feet each, a large size that appeals to surgeons of all kinds. “That was purposeful,” says Wellman. “We wanted to do it mostly for orthopedic surgery, a product line we have definitely been developing and growing. Orthopedic surgeons like to have nice, big rooms, because their surgeries are complicated. So the new operating rooms will be great for recruiting specifically orthopedic surgeons but also others who want to do surgery in a big, comfortable room.”

Patients benefit from things like a dedicated entrance, free valet service and improved flow, with prep and surgery being done in the same area. A nurse navigator works with each patient throughout all phases of the process. “It's really improved the patient experience,” says Wellman.

Memorial Hospital was also recently named a Bariatric Robotic Surgery Epicenter, a designation from Intuitive Surgical, maker of the da Vinci Xi robotic system. The hospital does about 400 bariatric robotic surgeries a year led by Dr. Richard DiCicco, and Intuitive Surgical took note of the quality, efficiency and success rates of that surgical program.

The designation means the hospital is now a training center for surgeons nationwide who come to Tampa to learn from DiCicco and observe the hospital's program in action. And if they like what they see, that's just another plus.

“Physicians will want to come here and practice in a place known as an epicenter nationwide for bariatric surgeries,” says Wellman. “It will help us recruit nursing staff, too. Clinicians want to be part of something special and different.”

The epicenter designation further provides incentive for the hospital to stay at the top. “It keeps us on our toes,” says Wellman. “When you're a center of excellence people are watching, so you're going to be good and stay good at what you're doing.” She expects to get a “halo effect” of referrals from physicians who receive training at the hospital but don't feel ready yet for more complex cases.

It also will continue to drive growth for the robotic surgery division at the 183-bed hospital, which is part of HCA's West Florida division. The number of robotic surgeries performed at the hospital has increased 52% this year, says Wellman. “It's not very common for a typical community hospital to have two robots doing as many robotic surgeries as we have,” she says. “And as we employ more staff and do more business, that contributes back into the economic growth and development of the community.”

What's next for the hospital? The list includes a $350,000 renovation of the ER lobby and a $3.5 million renovation of its behavioral health unit. That will be followed by an overhaul of patient rooms to privatize them all. “I know if I'm sick I don't want to be with someone else,” says Wellman. “So those are the three priorities.”

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