On July 25, the Palm Coast Realtor Margaret Sheehan-Jones, Larry Torino of Palm Coast’s United Methodist Church and officials from St. Augustine’s Flagler Hospital–now Flagler Health Plus–met with Palm Coast building and development officials to talk about a 4-acre parcel at Matanzas Woods Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway: what it’s zoned for, what can be built there, what cannot.
There were no solid concepts. But Flagler Hospital is buying the parcel and plans on building medical offices, according to half a dozen people familiar with some aspect of the plans, with closing on the property now set for Oct. 7.
The St. Augustine hospital is planning possibly a “medical village” with amenities, a concept other health care providers, including AdventHealth, are developing in various places. It would be the first competitive foray by an out of county health care provider in what has overwhelmingly been AdventHealth territory until now. And it would be built at 1000 Matanzas Woods Parkway, just down the road from 2355 Matanzas Woods Parkway, where AdventHealth is planning a stand-alone emergency room.
“It’s a health village concept that they’ve done,” County Administrator Jerry Cameron said of Flagler Hospital’s plan. “The one I went to and looked at in St. Johns County had a pediatrics office, an orthopedics office, a primary care office and a couple of other offices, and they had a YMCA built in there that was open to the general community but it was used for rehabilitation too.”
Flagler County’s economic development office had some conversations with Fagler Hospital–Sheehan-Jones works closely with Helga van Eckert, the department’s director–but isn’t more directly involved in the plans, other than in some ways to ride the coattails of a public announcement. The hospital hasn’t asked for economic development incentives. But it did explore what broader possibilities it could offer from that land.
The meeting with Palm Coast officials was “informal,” City Manager Matt Morton said, without so much as site plans or anything to that effect. Those have yet to be submitted. “They didn’t leave us with anything,” Jason DeLorenzo, the city’s development director, said, though it appears the plans call for a two-level building or set of buildings. The parcel is zoned neighborhood commercial, limiting its uses to medical offices as opposed to anything more elaborate such as an actual hospital or a laboratory. The designation precludes any variances, or exceptions, to zoning rules.
The closing was initially set for late September but was extended to the October date, Larry Torino, an official with First United Methodist Church of Palm Coast, said today. The church is selling the land to the hospital. “We’re under contract with them,” Torino confirmed today. “We gave them one thirty-day extension.” (Torino is a building official with Flagler Beach government, but that association has nothing to do with the hospital deal.) The church previously sold two acres off the same parcel to Dollar General, which is under construction there.
In concept, Torino said, the Flagler Health Plus plan is similar to AdventHealth’s satellite operation on Cypress Edge Parkway in Palm Coast. County Commission Chairman Donald O’Brien compared it to “World Golf Village and a couple of other places in the region,” but he said he has not been briefed on the plans.
Flagler County officials have been clamoring for more mental health services in the county, and some, among them Cameron and Joe Mullins, the county commissioner, have been speaking of a maternity ward despite demographics that argue against one: the county has around 800 births a year. But Flagler Health Plus’s plans for Palm Coast entail neither. “I don’t think there is mental health that I’ve heard about,” Cameron said. “I do know that Flagler has a telemedicine program that will be available there, and they do provide mental health services in that way. But that’s generally med-prescribing and things of that nature.”
AdventHealth officials have been in conversation with local county and city leaders to assure them that mental health services are on their horizon.
Flagler Health Plus’s advance into Flagler is an early example of the Legislature’s erosion earlier this year of the Certificate of Need process, which since 1973 has regulated health care facilities’ expansions based on need. The process is still in place for such services as nursing homes, cancer-treatment facilities and the like, but many other services are no longer similarly regulated. That’s unleashing what officials privately speak of as hospital wars.
AdventHealth officials are concerned–but shouldn’t be, say Cameron and O’Brien, who chairs the county’s economic development board and is a member of the AdventHealth Foundation board. “I have it through third parties that they’re saying that Flagler is just going to come down here and use this outpost to get patients and take them to St. Johns County,” Cameron said. “That’s a little preposterous.”
“It’s competition,” O’Brien said. “What I’ve heard from Dr. Jimenez and from some of their leadership is,” he said, referring to Ron Jimenez, AdventHealth Palm Coast’s CEO, “they have a concern about wanting to deploy a lot more capital in Flagler County until maybe they can get a better understanding of the lay of the land, because we’re in a brave new world now with the changes in the certificate of need program. Less requirements now. And they’re a huge player, they’re a multi-state operation, a multi-billion dollar corporation, so I think at their highest level they’re trying to understand how they reallocate capital around their whole system, and it’s not just Flagler. I think they’re going to go slow for a while until they figure things out. So do they have a concern? Absolutely. Why wouldn’t they. It’s competition. They haven’t had that before, and the world is changing. But it’s kind of early.”
That hesitancy about deploying more capital in certain areas may be having a direct effect on plans in Palm Coast where, for example, certain planned expansions could be paused so more attention may be given to marketing what’s already in place, as a counterforce to competition. But that’s not expected to impact other investments, such as AdventHealth’s partnership with the school district in a new health flagship program at Flagler Palm Coast High School, or Palm Coast’s efforts to land a university presence in town that would be heavily tied to medical fields.
“For us and Advent, it’s kind of new,” O’Brien said. “Look everywhere you go in other larger areas, multiple facilities right next to each other,” as in Jacksonville, where the Baptist Medical center, Mayo Clinic, Satin Vincent’s Hospital and UF Shands, among others, all operate within relatively short distances of each other (though not quite down the block, as on Matanzas Woods Parkway). “That’s just new for us because we’ve been a smaller community, but we’re now in a transition from I think rural to mid-size county.”
Will it be to the good? “Competition to me is always good,” O’Brien said.
It’s also the sort of development local government leaders were hoping for, if not that specifically, when they inaugurated the opening of the Matanzas Woods interchange with I-95 three years ago.
“What I hope comes out from the competition pressure is that we will have women services and mental health services in Flagler County,” Cameron said, even though neither is in the works at the moment. Of Flagler Hospital, he said: “They are a credit to the community. I accomplished a lot of things with them when I was the assistant administrator in St. Johns and then when I left that position, I did some work for Flagler to continue what we had started at the county. It is all about outreach to health care partners and trying to have a network of providers that are sharing information and supporting each other.”
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
I would welcome such a move wholeheartedly. I’ve had nothing but a first-class experience with the doctors and staff at St. Augustine’s Flagler Hospital.
FPC Granny says
GREAT NEWS!!! Competition in hospital health care is much needed here in Palm Coast. Hoping that the competition will bring up the standards of care at Advent.
Karen Knights says
I would welcome St Augustine Flagler Hospital. I WILL NOT go to Advent and have gone to St Aughustine their cardiac unit saved my life.. having them here would be a blessing for me and many…
Sue Sisk says
I got one would more than welcome this addition to our community! Our family personally only uses Flagler Hospital for all of our emergency/serious health needs.
Former patients says
What Palm Coast needs is doctors who listen to what the patient is telling them, do a h as ends on exam order their test and be sure patients get the results . They also need to check patients hospital ID band to make sure they have the correct patient if a patient was scheduled for a test and their doctor cancelled the test the Department where the test is being performed need to know not just follow the paper list of patients for a procedure but to still identify they have the correct patient, as how many patients end up with incorrect results wrong treatment .
Good news, hurry and get this completed.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
‘Bout time ‘Advent’ (?) gets competition – from a real hospital which pays real ‘real estate’ property taxes……
Does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the ‘religious’ property tax exemption enjoyed by the humanitarian multi-million owners have cost Flagler County ( my approximation) close to $7 million lost revenue since they opened in 2002 ( improved taxable from January 2003 through present date based on their modest ad valorem value per property appraiser)
Any other privately owner hospital would have paid , and continue to pay us what amounts to approximately $1,100 per day which this so-called religious bare bones hospital cheats us out of.
I still have the towels I would not use on my dogs which were given to me, upon request, when a patient in their religious hospital last fall,
Too bad , however, the hospital decided to purchase on the extreme north of the county and not the southern end where land is far cheaper and more plentiful as well as more accessible for many Flagler County residents along the US1 corridor, for instance. But, as always it seems that the same ladies pick the locations for every new investors and businesses… just my only objection – how and where the land was chosen.
Nonetheless welcome any real hospital to town who will pay us real property taxes.
If Margret Jones is involved, everyone should run like hell. Have never seen a deal put together by her where someone was not screwed royally. A hospital, a Sears store and an old bank, the county lost millions and she collect 10% or over $100k on each transaction!
I always thought that the Jesus pictures in the halls of Advent Health were comical.
* Firstly, where did they find Jesus for the photo shoots.
* Why is Jesus looking over the doctor’s shoulders in one of the prints–was Jesus
making sure that they billed 15.00 for each aspirin tablet?
I’d like to see a print of Jesus declining care to someone due to lack of insurance.
Margret Jones should have been fired for her screw up on the Sears store with the county.
Ignorance revealed says
Oh you uninformed masses who speaks form a position of ignorance. Do you not know that Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine is a non for profit establishment? Therefore, they do not pay taxes???
jack howell says
You took the words out of my mouth!
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Oh dear ! Guess I deserve egg on my face for stupidly assuming that there exists a hospital which doesn’t have some kind of connection(s) to assure their property tax exemption.
Guess we need some new legislators who will prohibit any hospital tax exemption.
Not happy about this placement at all. The plans for this development opens the door to inconsistent development in neighborhoods all over Palm Coast. A move that will do to us what happened in Daytona Beach neighborhoods. This appears to be a multi-story commercial development up against residential. This goes along with the Dollar General going up on Matanzas Woods parkway near this planned development. The Land Development Code is supposed to guard against this, and the City is putting itself in a bad position to protect the community going forward if it doesn’t insist on consist style development which will effect the future of every neighborhood and values. Town Center or property along US 1 would have made more sense but this wasn’t the case because of what appears to be local relationships between the County and an agent. A questionable relationship which has already cost us tax payers over $13M in worthless property that is unusable and now sits vacant.