As Florida Hospital Flagler CEO Ken Mattison saw it at this afternoon’s groundbreaking, an investor wouldn’t want to be putting his or her money on the latest expansion at the hospital, which isn’t seen as a money-maker: the 32-bed addition pushes the hospital beyond the 99-bed threshold, where it’s been for more than a decade, making it no longer a small, rural hospital in the federal government’s eyes. As a larger hospital, FHF could lose roughly $12 million in federal dollars and see its overall revenue fall even as it adds 45 to 50 skilled jobs to its rolls and the local economy.
The potential loss in revenue isn’t what Mattison is focusing on.
“Because of Medicare Disproportionate Share or Medicare dependent hospital, additional revenue flows our way if we stay small and rural,” he said. “The minute we exceed 99 beds, we actually lose that additional benefit, so if you think about it this is not a business decision, this is a how do we meet the needs of the community decision, and as Tony put it”—he was referring to Tony Papandrea, chairman of the Florida Hospital Foundation board, who was standing nearby—“If I were an investor, this would not be something that I would invest in for the money. This would be something I’d invest in because it’s the right thing to do.”
Or as Papandrea put it: “This is a big deal because this is a project that has been done to accommodate the growth of the community, and for no other reason. Our community is growing, their health care needs are growing, the hospital is growing, and we’re growing with it. The Foundation and the hospital are doing this for no other reason than to meet the health care needs of the community. This is not about money. This is not about spending money to do this. This is about helping the community. So that’s exciting. It’s not often that a corporation will do something with no ulterior motive other than the good of the community, and that’s what this is.”
About 100 people turned up for the groundbreaking in mid-afternoon, in the parking lot outside the hospital’s Emergency Room. In this case the ceremonial ground was a mound of dirt on top of the pavement, part of the area that will soon be covered by the elevated, two-story addition, which will jut out of the existing façade several dozen feet on the Emergency Room side, creating a covered parking lot below. The $15 million addition will add 32 beds that will double the hospital’s existing 16 so-called Progressive Care Unit beds. Progressive care beds are one step below Intensive Care Unit beds, a step above those “regular” hospital beds (or medical-surgical beds).
In all says John Subers, the hospital foundation’s executive director, Florida Hospital Flagler will end up with a total of 147 licensed beds by the time the addition is finished and the new beds are receiving patients, come December. It’s driven by the county’s population growth: Flagler County just tipped past the 100,000 mark, while the hospital’s average daily census, according to a hospital release, has increased more than 25 percent between 2010 and 2014.
“What it’s going to mean to us is to have the infrastructure and resources to better meet the needs of the community as it grows,” Mattison said. “We’re very excited about what these additional 32 beds that are under construction are going to mean for our ability to care for the community.”
The expansion also solidifies Florida Hospital Flagler’s position as the county’s largest private-sector employer. At just under 1,000 employees, it surpassed Palm Coast Data, and will surpass it further with the additional jobs generated by the expansion.
Not that anyone is cheering to end up in a hospital bed, but the new beds will have an additional degree of comfort for friends and family: the hospital foundation wants to add a sleeper sofa that sleeps one visitor per room in each room, so a patient can have one friend or family member comfortably spend the night nearby. It’s part of the dual realization that, as studies have shown, when a patient has family nearby stress, anxiety and the rate of infection fall, resulting in better chances of recovery; and recliners only make friends or family member cranky, when they have to spend the night.
“Nurses love it, patients love it, hospitals love it,” Subers says, “and from personal experience, I slept in a recliner at Shands over the last month with my mother in the hospital, and I wanted a sleeper sofa so bad.”
But the sofas are not cheap: at $3,500 each, the foundation is looking to raise $118,000 to have one in each room by the time the expansion is completed. You can make your gift here.