GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Building on a strategic affiliation that has connected local residents to leading-edge stroke care and other health care services for several years, UF Health and Central Florida Health have agreed to evolve their relationship, with UF Health to acquire its two regional hospitals in early 2020, pending final reviews.
Leesburg Regional Medical Center will become UF Health Leesburg Hospital, and The Villages® Regional Hospital will become UF Health The Villages® Hospital.
The move will strengthen and improve the availability of high-quality, efficient, affordable health care for Lake, Sumter and Marion counties through the 660-bed regional system, and will preserve and enhance the hospitals’ focus on other important missions of research, medical education and charity care. Over time, long-term capital plans for facility improvements and new equipment and technologies will be considered, including construction of a new general acute care hospital in association with The Villages®.
In January, a new 24-hour freestanding emergency room will open on State Road 44 in Wildwood, just across from Brownwood Paddock Square in The Villages®.
“UF Health and Central Florida Health have had a complementary, collegial relationship that has already begun to expand the health care services available to patients in the area. Together we will concentrate on leveraging each other’s strengths as we aim to serve the community by providing the best possible patient care — creating a smoother and more coordinated patient experience — and training the next generation of health care providers,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “We are looking forward to working with community physicians who practice at the hospitals and others on the health care team to serve the needs of the community and bring the latest health care advances to the region.”
UF Health and Central Florida Health have been working to develop leading-edge patient care programs and improve access to specialty services, advanced technology and clinical studies for area residents. The focus has included creating primary care physician training opportunities to meet the increasing demand for primary care physicians as the region’s population quickly grows.
UF Health physicians work with Central Florida Health to provide comprehensive stroke care and telestroke services to their patients when needed, offering timely access to the latest technology and the most advanced treatments available, and providing around-the-clock access to consults with a vascular neurologist regarding treatment plans and decisions related to administration of the clot-busting drug tPA for patients who remain in the local area. UF Health also provides educational opportunities, including continuing medical education about the latest in stroke care.
“UF Health is at the forefront of a variety of clinical and research advances, and the University of Florida ranks among the top public universities in the country. We’re looking forward to being able to offer additional depth and new alternatives for local residents requiring specialized care in areas where there is a growing community need, while also ensuring they are able to easily obtain primary care,” said Don Henderson, CEO of Central Florida Health.
Henderson added that local physicians who have an interest in research and training programs will be able to take advantage of more options, including additional continuing medical education opportunities. In addition, UF Health is seeking to grow its research enterprise to further benefit patients and move medicine forward, and to serve an additional mission of training the next generation of health care providers through development of additional primary care physician training programs and other programs for health professionals.
The demand for primary care physicians is increasing as the region’s population quickly grows, and doctors tend to establish their practices close to where they complete their training. Expanding the physician workforce also provides added economic benefits to the local community — and throughout the state.
Officials also will discuss establishing common approaches to quality care and safety initiatives.
“Combining our organizations’ talents and resources is easy because we share common values and a common vision: Each day our health care teams come to work with a singular focus on the patient. The patient is at the center of everything we do,” said Ed Jimenez, chief executive officer of UF Health Shands, part of the University of Florida. “We are excited about maximizing treatment options, improving coordination of care, offering the latest medical breakthroughs and exploring new opportunities related to our community service, medical education and research activities.”
Technically known as a member substitution agreement, the news regarding the two hospitals is the latest step in UF Health’s commitment to making high-quality, compassionate health care more accessible and comes in the wake of an announcement last week that The Villages® and University of Florida Health have signed a letter of intent to work together to develop a comprehensive health care campus offering a full portfolio of education, research, and advanced health care and wellness services for The Villages® community, including construction of a new general acute care hospital. Jimenez said UF, UF Health and The Villages® aim to create a national model for healthier communities that promotes healthier living throughout the region.
The Villages® seeks to become America’s “healthiest hometown,” and the broad vision will include a variety of UF Health medical practices as well as teaching and research alliances with various UF colleges, such as Dentistry, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Health Professions, and Veterinary Medicine, along with associated centers and institutes. UF/IFAS extension programming focused on food and nutrition also will be a highlight.
The University of Florida will provide the breadth of knowledge, talented faculty and resources to ensure that healthy living is integrated into the very fabric of the community through health, education and wellness programs; UF Health will ensure a forward-looking approach to prevention, early detection and health promotion.
About UF Health With main campuses in Gainesville and Jacksonville, UF Health includes six health colleges, nine research institutes and centers, eight hospitals, including two teaching hospitals and five specialty hospitals, and a host of physician medical practices and outpatient services throughout North Central and Northeast Florida. Its mission is to promote health through outstanding and high-quality patient care, innovative and rigorous education in the health professions and biomedical sciences, and high-impact research across the spectrum of basic, translational and clinical investigation.
UF Health includes the UF colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Health Professions, and Veterinary Medicine, which has both a large animal hospital and a small animal hospital. The system also encompasses several UF research institutes and centers. The full spectrum of patient-care services are provided through UF Health Shands Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville, UF’s private, not-for-profit affiliates. UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville includes UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital. Three additional specialty hospitals, UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital, UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital and UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital, are also in Gainesville. UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North Hospital are the system’s Northeast Florida hospitals. UF Health offers a network of outpatient rehabilitation centers, two home health agencies in Gainesville and Jacksonville, and more than 100 UF physician outpatient practices throughout North Central and Northeast Florida.
About the University of Florida The University of Florida is a major, public, comprehensive, land-grant, research university. The state’s oldest and most comprehensive university, UF is among the nation’s most academically diverse public universities. UF traces its beginnings to a small seminary in 1853. It opened its doors in Gainesville in 1906 with 102 students. Today, it is one of the most comprehensive and academically diverse universities in the nation, with an enrollment of some 52,000 students annually. UF is home to 16 colleges and more than 170 research centers and institutes and UF offers nearly 300 graduate degree programs. Only five other universities nationwide have as many programs of study on one campus as the University of Florida.
UF has a long history of established programs in international education, research and service. It is one of only 17 public, land-grant universities that belong to the Association of American Universities, the higher-education organization comprising the top 62 public and private institutions in North America. UF is consistently ranked among the nation’s top universities. UF has nearly 5,000 faculty members with distinguished records in teaching, research and service, including 37 Eminent Scholar chairs and 42 faculty elections to the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, or the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Awards include a Fields Medal, two Pulitzer Prizes, NASA’s top award for research, and the Smithsonian Institution’s conservation award.