Winter Park Memorial Hospital is officially expanding its facilities – looking to meet the needs of a growing local population.
City Commissioners gave the go-ahead on Monday for Winter Park Memorial Hospital to add a new patient pavilion with 80 treatment rooms and 160 future beds, along with an expanded emergency department with two new triage rooms, 16 new private treatment rooms and 12 new rapid treatment rooms for minor emergencies.
The City Commission spoke overwhelmingly in favor of the project before unanimously voting it through.
“This is a blessing to have something like this here,” Mayor Steve Leary said. “You do not get quality people to work at a place unless you provide the right facility…. It’s a simple vote for me.”
“I’m highly supportive; I just think we’re very fortunate and lucky to have [the hospital],” Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel said. “I was always relieved when my children were young and I knew it was at the end of my street.”
Multiple residents also spoke out supporting the expansion of the hospital due to lack of space in the current facilities.
“The emergency room is absolutely impossibly crowded most of the time,” said Winter Park resident Jay Plotkin, who works at the hospital as a quality control officer. “I know that personally for myself as a patient.”
“It’s a no-brainer for the [emergency department] – that has to be done. We have people from this community lying on stretchers in the middle of the [emergency department] because there’s no cubicles. It’s out of the question.”
The hospital has gone through a complete transformation since it first opened in 1955. The original building housed 58 beds and a staff of 90 doctors. The first ambulance was a hearse owned by a local funeral home, and back then only 12,000 people called Winter Park home.
Winter Park Memorial Hospital today serves a population of almost 30,000 Winter Park residents and houses 320 beds, though the hospital is in the process of converting semi-private half rooms into completely private rooms. That trims down the overall number of beds, but the 160 new beds from the recently approved addition will still give the hospital a 30 percent increase, for a total of 417 beds.
“As this area’s grown, by the time [the expansions] are built it will be needed and there will be demand for everything,” Winter Park resident John Horvath said. “The hospital is needed and it will always be needed.
Winter Park Memorial Hospital CEO Ken Bradley told the Observer last month that the expansion also helps the hospital take care of a growing elderly population. Winter Park Memorial Hospital has seen a 4 percent increase this year in inpatient admissions and nearly 25,000 seniors live within a 5-mile radius of the hospital, a population expected to grow in the next 15 years, he said.
Plotkin said that after six decades of business in Winter Park, the hospital deserves the community’s support.
“The city of Winter Park has a lot of crown jewels that we’re all very proud of: Park Avenue, Central Park, Rollins, all the neighborhoods with the beautiful tree coverage,” Plotkin said. “Nobody ever says anything about Winter Park Hospital being one of the crown jewels. To be in business for 60 years…. We need to make this a crown jewel that’s just right at the top of that crown.”
The hospital plans to start construction on the expansion by early 2016.