Central Florida Regional Hospital (CFRH) – one of Sanford’s largest employers and taxpayers – plans to build a new hospital near Heathrow.

Hospital officials have been opaque about their long-term plans, so it’s unknown if the new facility will result in closing or a reduction in services – or no change at all – at the current hospital, located at 1401 W Seminole Blvd. (Gmap).

Central Florida Regional Hospital CEO Wendy Brandon declined to provide much detail about the hospital’s future in Sanford, saying only that CFRH remained fully operational. She said that the hospital’s parent company, Hospital Corporation of American (HCA), was focused on building an 11,000-square-foot, free-standing emergency room on property located at the northeast corner of International Parkway and Wilson Road (Gmap).

Which is true. Brandon and planning consultants for the hospital recently met with Seminole County planners to discuss the free-standing emergency room. But the property, is 28 acres (1.2 million square feet). An 11,000-square-foot building would take up less than 1% of that land.

Furthermore, plans submitted to Seminole County show a 180-bed hospital with a helipad and two 60,000-square-foot office buildings. The site is about 11 miles west of CFRH’s existing facility.

The property was purchased in September for $9.7 million by JPM AA Housing LLC. That entity is a shell company for the hospital. It was created by Stites & Harrison PLLC, a Nashville, Tenn.-based law firm that has an extensive healthcare practice. HCA is also headquartered in Nashville.

(Interesting side note: The late Jeno Paulucci, frozen food mogul and long-time Sanford resident, previously owned the land before selling it to Rockefeller Group for $16.75 million. Here’s a link to the story I wrote about that deal in 2007 for the Orlando Business Journal. )

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Click to enlarge. A preliminary site plan of HCA’s new hospital. Credit: S&ME Inc.

So why would HCA look to build a new hospital near Heathrow? Three reasons:

  1. Florida Hospital shot an arrow across bow of HCA when it opened it’s own free-standing emergency room last summer at Rinehart Road and County Road 46A, about 2.4 miles southeast of the proposed CFRH medical campus. 
  2. A desire to attract more patients from the western Seminole County and Eastern Lake County markets
  3. The eventual completion of the Wekiva Parkway, which could extend a new hospital’s reach into Lake County.

Sanford elected leaders are concerned about the hospital leaving Sanford all together. The current 221-bed acute care hospital was built in 1982, and is designated as a Level II trauma center.

“The city and the hospital have always had a good relationship, and I hope we’re able to continue that in the future,” said Sanford city Commissioner Patty Mahany. “I would hate to see the hospital leave Sanford. I think it would be bad for the city, and I think it would be bad for the hospital.”

Miguel de Arcos has a different opinion about the proposed new hospital. de Arcos owns Central Parc Development & Property Management, a firm that has built several developments along International Parkway, including Savannah Park at Heathrow, which is directly across from the proposed hospital.

“I cannot think of a better location for a new hospital. It’s tucked into the cradle of the new 417/Wekiva Parkway interchange and right in between two I-4 exits,” said de Arcos, who was Rockefeller Group’s broker in 2007 when the company bought the property from Paulucci.

This is not HCA’s first foray west of I-4. CareNow, a walk-in medical clinic owned by HCA, is building a facility at the northwest corner of Internationally Parkway an S.R. 46, roughly 3/4 of a mile directly north from the proposed hospital site. (“Auto parts store, walk-in clinic going up near Lake Forest“)

In addition, one of the largest family doctors’ groups in Sanford – North Seminole Family Practice – opened an office in front of the Publix Lake Forest, about 1.1 miles from the new hospital site. North Seminole Family Practice – whose doctors include James Quinn, Daniel Monette, Kristy Magee and Manpreet Gill – is owned by HCA.

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