The Flagler County school district and AdventHealth on Tuesday entered into an unprecedented, exclusive agreement that will underwrite athletic-training and some mental health services in the district and solidify the hospital’s relationship with the district’s flagship health programs, a pipeline to health-care jobs.
The agreement will also blanket the district in AdventHealth marketing, capturing for AdventHealth alone as a health care provider the district’s 13,000 students and their parents.
AdventHealth has been assertively positioning itself in Palm Coast to protect its market share in an intensely competitive health care economy, with Flagler Health-Plus, the St. Augustine hospital, making inroads, including in mental health services, and another company’s hospital said to be entering the Palm Coast market soon. AdventHealth itself is building a second hospital in Palm Coast, on Palm Coast Parkway. With that addition, AdventHealth will eventually become the largest employer in the county, equaling or exceeding the school district’s 1,676 employees.
AdventHealth, already immersed in the district but in a less formal way, and much in the agreement isn’t new so much as amplified and made far more visible.
The health care provider will contribute $100,000 in cash over five years to the district, and what it describes as an estimated $650,000 in in-kind services over the life of the contract. Those in-kind services were not outlined in detail. More specifically, AdventHealth will contribute $20,000 a year to the Flagler Education Foundation, which will then split the money–$10,000 to support the district’s health care-themed flagship programs, such as those at Rymfire Elementary and Flagler Palm Coast High School, and $10,000 to support behavioral health programs.
In exchange, the district will pay AdventHealth $150,000 (or $30,000 a year) to defray the cost of athletic trainers. The district has always had trainers–two at each high school–most recently underwritten by PT Solutions, also partly in exchange for free advertising. Previously, the schools hired teachers who doubled up as trainers, making for extremely long hours and short tenures on the job. The district had to pay them as teachers, with benefits, and as trainers. The PT Solution approach was a financial break, as will be the AdventHealth approach: AdventHealth will be paying the bulk of the trainers’ salaries, with the district supplementing.
“Either one was a saving to the district as far as how much it was costing us to get a trainer,” says Steve DeAugustino, the long-time athletic director at FPC. Of the AdventHealth deal, he said: “It’s a huge service, actually. I kind of think we’re getting a good bang for our buck.”
Two trainers are to be assigned to FPC and Matanzas High School, providing 40 hours a week each, attending all home and away games for all major sports, with “the sport with the highest position in the prioritization of risk schedule should take priority, whether it is a practice or a game or event.”
“AdventHealth will communicate with parents the treatment of all musculoskeletal conditions and physician referral when appropriate,” the contract states. “In addition, the School will communicate participation status with coaches if permissible. If the School District or Schools require additional athletic training coverage, AdventHealth will make best efforts to provide a certified athletic trainer, requested at least two weeks in advance of the event, at the preferred rate of $33.50 per hour. Travel costs and daily per diem may apply.”
AdventHealth will also develop a sports medicine team backing up its trainers, including a team physician providing medical oversight for the trainer, event coverage based on location and risk level, evaluations and injury assessments, and medical direction for follow up care. Physicals will be conducted with AdventHealth personnel, including one such event per school per year at no charge, though that’s not actually new: DeAugustino said the hospital pre-Covid had been providing free physicals, typically drawing 400 to 500 student-athletes at a single go–a great service to the district, he said.
The physicals will include free electrocardiogram tests for all student-athletes, as long as the students participate in the annual event. The hospital will also provide a “concussion program” that includes testing software, training for coaches on how to use it (such as administering baseline testing), two presentations a year, access to a clinic (but at the student’s or school board’s expense) in case of suspected concussions, and priority scheduling. The hospital is also providing heat-exertion-prevention training and CPR training.
The district will give AdventHealth blanket marketing in the district, what amounts to the largest sponsorship agreement in the district’s history–at no cost to AdventHealth, and calling AdventHealth the “Official Healthcare Champion” at each of the district’s 10 schools. Trainers will be clothed in AdventHealth logos, as will others associated with the hospital’s services.
“AdventHealth shall have exclusive naming rights, marketing and health care related sponsorship rights in Flagler Schools,” the agreement states, preventing any other health care provider from jointly promoting or sponsoring school events or activities. It isn’t clear how that may affect small operations such as clinics or physician practices that sometimes sponsor teams, cultural events or the like: the agreement specifically bars sponsorships by such businesses or physicians.
The health care provider’s advertising, whose value the contract does not calculate, will have access to every school’s scoreboards, gymnasiums, stadiums, weight rooms and the district’s website advertising, as well as scripted PA announcements about AdventHealth at the end of each quarter or set of half of all major sports events or matches.
It’s not a small value that the district is providing AdventHealth: a scoreboard sponsorship for a year at FPC’s stadium, for example, is $5,000, a stadium banner is $500 a year or $1,000 a year, depending on placement, a gym banner is $500 for three years, and so on. Plus website advertising. In the aggregate, when so many schools’ venues are added up, the value over five years is well into six figures.
AdventHealth will also have its own page on the district’s website and links within the district’s smartphone app “for community health care information and services to promote AdventHealth services and facilities,” according to the contract.
The district has had exclusive agreements with beverage companies, as with Flagler Palm Coast High School’s 1999 agreement with Coca Cola (at the time FPC was the only high school), worth $10,000 a year, and other such agreements since, including with PT Solutions. But the agreement with AdventHealth far exceeds in reach, value and visibility any previous exclusivity agreement.
It’s a three-year partnership with an option, for AdventHealth only, to renew at for an additional two years. AdventHealth may sever the relationship if it no longer finds it beneficial. The agreement was developed between AdventHealth, the district and the Flagler Education Foundation, the district’s non-profit arm, whose executive director, Joe Rizzo, was the point man on the district’s side of the contract.
In a sign of the partnership’s value to AdventHealth, David Ottati himself, the CEO of the network’s Central Florida division and its 20-some hospitals and emergency rooms, was back in town, presenting the initiative to the Flagler County School Board. Ottati had previously been the CEO of what was then known as Florida Hospital Flagler, now AdventHealth Palm Coast, and had raised four children, who attended Flagler County schools.
“So it’s an absolute pleasure to be here and kind of my home here, so it’s nice to be here and see how we’ve continued to grow as a community,” Ottati said. “As I was driving in here, all the different memories of my kids being small and growing here at the beach eating at the restaurants, all those things just came to mind and it’s just nice to be here. And what I like about this partnership is, it’s an investment in the future of Flagler County and the growth of our kids, and the safety of our athletes, the well being mentally, physically, of the folks that live here, and it’s just nice to see that solidified in an agreement.” Ottati recognized the numerous people involved in the agreement and its tentacles across the community.
“This partnership highlights three different areas,” Ottati said. “The mental health aspect of our kids. The athletic aspect as well and making sure that we do keep our kids safe. And then lastly, as folks are graduating, they’re looking for careers. We’re constantly hiring. So we are looking at adding a new hospital, a major investment in this community, which is over $100 million invested right here in the well being and health of our community. But we don’t want to just stop with health care. We want to make sure the economic well being of our kids are part of that as well, and the families are involved as well, so this helps with all aspects of that.”
The question that School Board member Janet McDonald chose to raise before Ottati Tuesday evening, however, was not to elucidate details of the agreement with the public, but to ask a question AdventHealth officials have been asked (and have answered) repeatedly at business and public events previously: “Maternity and pediatrics,” as McDonald put it. (The local hospital does not have a maternity ward.)
Chief Operating Officer Wally de Aquino again provided the answer he’s been providing for a few years, if with precisely updated and previously unreleased numbers: “We had 824 births, just from Flagler County,” de Aquino said. “Now, if we look at our market share, we will never capture 100 percent. Our inpatient market share today is 53 percent. So if we were to guess that at least 60 percent of the families would choose to stay with us, we will still have less than two births per day in our community, and that’s not enough for us to open up a clinic. And the biggest issue will be recruiting a physician that will be willing to come over here and simply hope that they will deliver a baby during one day right, and having trained nurses to help as well. So we’re not there yet. As our community continues to grow, we will continue to look at that aspect.”
Addressing the contract itself, McDonald said she was hoping AdventHealth will “add some more services that balance out” the current offerings “as far as follow up care on some of the things like concussions and some of the more elaborate things that you may not be handling to a broad spectrum of treatment that’s needed in some extreme cases.”
“If there’s a different need out there that we may not provide we’ll be more than happy to talk to whoever about that and see how we can bring that locally,” Ottati said.
Other school board members lavished praise on the partnership, with Board member Colleen Conklin describing the “energy” inherent in the proposals it was being developed.
“Rarely do we get to see the folks who are making this happen for us in our county,” Board Chairman Trevor Tucker told the AdventHealth group, which also included CEO Ron Jimenez, sports marketing director Anna Donaldson and medicine outreach coordinator Eric Nasson, the latter two having presented the proposal to the board at a workshop earlier this month. “So thank you for coming here this evening, and we appreciate this partnership. And with that, all those in favor please signify by Aye.”
The board approved the deal unanimously.