Orlando Health makes progress in Horizon West

The hospital celebrated its first anniversary in January and already has upcoming expansion plans.


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As beautiful as the glass building of Orlando Health Horizon West is, the true beauty is born from within the walls of the hospital. 

The hearts of dedicated health care providers who work tirelessly at any cost, despite any hurdle because, like you, they care. 

Providing outstanding care and connection at home and in the local community is what the hospital strives to do and although it’s in its early stages, the location has already achieved major milestones and is embarking on plans of expansion. 

COMING SOON

In the next few weeks, the hospital has plans to add an additional 30 patient care beds. 

Orlando Health Horizon West currently operates with 30 in-patient beds on the third floor. With the expansion, the hospital will reach its full capacity of the 60 in-patient beds for which the hospital is currently licensed. 

Brian Wetzel, president of Orlando Health Horizon West, said it has been hard to project the exact date of opening due to the ongoing COVID-19 spikes unexpectedly bringing in high volumes of patients. 

According to the president, on Thursday, Feb. 3, the hospital had 24 people in in-patient care, while a couple of weeks ago, with the recent spike, the facility was at full capacity.

“We had our 30 beds full on the third floor and, unfortunately, we had to hold patients who needed a bed upstairs in the emergency department,” he said. “As health care providers we are currently working very hard to diminish the impact of these COVID spikes.”

Since its official opening to the public in January 2021, the Horizon West hospital has treated more than 800 COVID patients. 

The facility currently is utilizing only three of its six floors. Over the next few years, the hospital will continue to expand to its full potential as a 120-bed facility. The medical campus has an additional 40 acres to grow upon to meet the needs of the growing community.

“The future for Orlando Health Horizon West as a hospital facility is very bright because of the culture we’ve established and the roots we’re putting down in this community,” Wetzel said. “We wanted to be here to grow with Horizon West, and I think we are doing a wonderful job of that.”

Wetzel said as the hospital adds more physicians to the team it will be developing programs to allow it to expand beyond the typical medical services.

“We want to continue to accommodate the demands and the needs of this Horizon West community,” he said. “It's my job to make sure that we have the physician resources so that we can keep patients in this community and they don’t have to be transferred to another hospital outside of their community. They can get the care that they need right here from their home.”

He said the bariatrics program is a good example of this concept. He said the members of the program are interested in developing into the Horizon West area and the development is already underway. 

“We have one of the finest bariatric surgical programs downtown at Orlando Regional Medical Center, and that team is very enthusiastic about growing out into this area,” he said. “There is a great potential for us to provide those services to other local counties so that people don’t have to go downtown.”

Throughout the ongoing expansion, the president said they are working hard to keep their ultimate goal at the center of the development. 

“We want to continue that wonderful trend of keeping patients close to home when they have a health care need,” he said. “That's a commitment that we’re making, and we’re following through on that commitment.”

Wetzel said the hospital will continue to track and monitor the kinds of specialty services that are needed in the community and continue to expand upon those as they are identified. 

In addition, Orlando Health is building a stand-alone emergency room on a 28-acre campus in Davenport. 

The new one-story, 11,500-square-foot stand-alone emergency room in Reunion Village will open in March and will send patients in need of in-patient care to the Orlando Health Horizon West hospital. 

HISTORY

The West Orange Healthcare District and Health Central Hospital established a plan to purchase 40 acres of land in Horizon West for a health care services campus that would serve the needs of the newly developing community in 2000. 

Though the area was mostly citrus land at the time, the board and leadership team recognized the area would grow in the coming years and would need reliable health care services.

“We saw long before many others did that the potential for growth in the West Orange area was significant and we wanted to be a part of that from the start,” Wetzel said.

In 2005, the hospital purchased an additional 40 acres of land, located right next to the initial 40-acre purchase.

The WOHD and Orlando Health joined forces in March 2016 to improve health care in West Orange County. The $100 million project aimed to help transform Health Central Hospital’s Ocoee location into a destination medical campus and brought much-needed health care services to Horizon West.

Orlando Health and the WOHD officially broke ground on the Orlando Health Emergency Room and Medical Pavilion in Horizon West in January 2017. 

Wetzel said it was a long time before it made sense for the hospital to develop the campus because the population at the time could not support an emergency department.

By September 2018, the Orlando Health Emergency Room and Medical Pavilion in Horizon West was opened to the community.  

The emergency room featured 24 patient beds plus six observation beds, while the medical pavilion provided health care services including primary care, family medicine, OB/GYN, general surgery, a diagnostics laboratory, orthopedics, neurology, urology, cardiology, a pharmacy, outpatient rehabilitation and a center for health improvement.

Since the emergency room opened in 2018, it has had more than 30,000 emergency room visits, according to the Orlando Health location.

The hospital finished its construction with its topping-out ceremony and the placement of a ceremonial construction beam in September 2019. 

On Jan. 30, 2021, the six-story, 228,000 square foot Orlando Health Horizon West Hospital officially opened to the public. 

The first patient was admitted that day at 1:30 p.m.

The hospital is the health system’s 10th acute care facility and the organization’s first newly constructed hospital in more than 15 years. 

TODAY

Since then, more than 2,000 patients have been admitted for in-patient care and more than 700 surgeries and procedures have been performed.

“Our desire is that we are accessible, convenient and someone people have confidence in,” Wetzel said. “We want people in the community to come to us with trust and know that they can bring their loved ones here or even themselves.”

The president said the community has responded well to the work the hospital has been doing. 

The Horizon West location has received good volumes and although he said it's unfortunate there is a need, realistically the need exists, and the hospital is there to address them. 

According to Orlando Health, 87% of patients who needed to be admitted for services could be treated and stay at the Horizon West hospital in January. 

Wetzel said this meant the hospital had enough specialists to manage patients with varying needs, such as cancer care, laboratory services, orthopedic and sports medicine, outpatient care, robotic surgery and surgical care. 

The president said the remaining 13% of patients who visited needed acute specialty care so they were transferred to where they would best be served in downtown Orlando. 

LEADERSHIP

Wetzel is in his 27th year of working with Orlando Health. His career began in the emergency department, where he registered patients. 

“Working in an emergency department, I was quickly exposed to the great privilege it really is to stand ready for patients who need care in an urgent situation,” he said. 

Although he knew he wanted to serve in health care, he said, he didn’t know exactly what that meant or its importance until later in life. 

“I pursued a position with Orlando Health because I felt in a health care setting I would be able to learn, grow and create a career,” he said. “I very quickly learned to care about the work we do.”

Wetzel consistently used the words passionate, prideful, love and the need to serve, when speaking of the facility, its services and his team. 

He said one of the most important parts of opening the hospital was choosing the right team members. 

“There’s a constant conversation in this facility about the kind of place we want to be, the kind of health care environment we want to create and the kind of work environment we want to work in,” the president said. “We talk about mutual respect, partnership, appreciation, support and encouragement.”

He said he works hard to share his expectations and model his own behavior for others. 

“I think ‘thank you’ are the two most important words that come out of my mouth, and I thank this team constantly,” he said. 

“Set aside quality as an ambition, because quality is a given for us,” he explained. "It’s the kindness that makes us different. Being kind is the easiest thing we do in this building.”

Now, Wetzel and the rest of the team are sharing their passions with the rest of the Horizon West community. 

“I think the only thing better than being a part of something great is creating something great,” Wetzel said. “We are creating our own history here. We decide how great we want to be here, and we plan on exceeding all expectations.”

 

 

author

Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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