Flagler Health+’s plans to build a hospital on a 70-acre parcel west of U.S. 1 and Palm Coast Parkway appear to have died. And the St. Augustine-based company is on the market, with AdventHealth, Halifax Health and Jacksonville-based Baptist Health competing to buy it, according to Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin.
Almost exactly a year ago, Flagler Health, owners of Flagler Hospital there, completed the $2 million purchase of a 70-acre parcel on undeveloped land beyond where Palm Coast Parkway dead-ends at U.S. 1. It wqs an attempt to challenge AdvetHealth’s dominance of the health care market in Palm Coast.
By then, however, AdventHealth Palm Coast had broken ground on its second hospital in town, a 100-bed facility on Palm Coast Parkway. The hospital, a $164 million project at last estimate in March, was scheduled to open next spring. There was little question that AdventHealth had developed the mid-town project as a message to Flagler Health.
Despite its size on a parcel with little elbow room, the second hospital drew no opposition and plenty of support, including from city leaders, all of whom are expected to be at the ceremonial opening of the hospital in spring. But there’s also been interest, especially from county government, in bringing Flagler Health to the county, as with its once-projected medical village in north Palm Coast.
“We desperately another network in town,” Alfin said in an interview today. “So here’s the worst thing that could happen. If Advent buys that hospital, brings in the next hospital, that would just kill me, because that could happen. You’ve got Halifax, Baptist and Advent all competing to buy Flagler Health.”
Flagler Health+ confirmed in August that it was seeking a “partner,” launching speculation about who was lining up to acquire it. The hospital described it as a decision “to explore for the future” and to “expand access to care.”
“Specifically, Flagler Health+ is seeking an organization who will be the right fit for the community,” the hospital said in its announcement. It initiated the search through a consultant and a request for proposal, without specifying who was on the list.
Alfin put it in more categorical terms. “They’re being bought,” he said. “They’re getting bought by either Halifax Baptist, or Advent. In my opinion I really don’t want Advent to be the winner of that. I want to compete. That’s my business background. I really want a competitive network in town. I think that will serve our residents much better than having a blocking maneuver, because if Advent buys, that’s it. That’s all you’ll ever have here.”
Alfin has had no direct or indirect contact with Baptist executives, while “the top guys” at Flagler Health “are gone,” it’s never been made clear why.”Halifax, I have spoken to,” he said. “They’ve expressed an interest and I’ve been at meetings in the past where they have expressed an interest” in the property. On the other hand, he said, “I know that both Halifax and Baptist demand an I-95 frontage. Don’t ask me why.”
That would seem to rule out the U.S. 1 location.
Alfin said he was “very sure” that the Flagler Health plan for a hospital on U.S. 1 and Palm Coast Parkway was dead. Asked to be more specific, he said he was “80 percent sure.” That does not necessarily mean that the site would not eventually see a hospital under another name, though Alfin saw AdventHealth’s move on the Parkway as having successfully blocked Flagler Health+’s expansion.
Alfin stressed that his hopes for more health care competition in town was no judgment on AdventHealth. “Don’t get me wrong, for me Wally is as good as it gets,” the mayor said, referring to Wally de Aquino, the chief operating officer at AdventHealth Palm Coast. “If I can only convince them to build campus housing for their people. I’m trying.”
Of the ongoing wrangling and positioning between health care companies, he added: “This is all happening in spite of us, which kills me because I’m very much a believer that, in city government, you ought to be managing your future. You want to be in the know. And that one, I don’t know.”