Porter family sees dream for community taking shape
By Kyle LoJacono
When Don Porter was growing up in what is now Wesley Chapel, his family was one of six living in the area. Today it has nearly 60,000 residents and will soon have its first hospital.
The groundbreaking for the Wesley Chapel Medical Center was Dec. 14 and Don vividly remembered what healthcare was like in the area decades ago.
“Our family bought the land for Wiregrass Ranch in 1941,” Don said. “In 1943 a B-26 (airplane) crashed and the whole crew died because there were no doctors or hospital out here. Then when I was growing up on the ranch we had a rider who was thrown from his horse and he broke his neck. That happened at 9 in the morning and it took until after 9 that night for doctors to get here to see him.
“Our family is proud to be a small part of the hospital coming to Wesley Chapel,” Don continued. “It’s been part of a dream to see this whole area develop.”
J.D. Porter, Don’s son, agrees with his father.
“We love this area and it’s time we had a hospital,” J.D. said. “This is a necessary and important step to give the self-fulfilling need to have a place to live, work and play.”
John Harding, president and CEO of Adventist Health System’s (AHS) Tampa Bay Region, said talks to build the hospital got going three years ago as a joint venture between University Community Hospital (UCH) and AHS. The two companies merged Sept. 1.
“In the mid ’90s, UCH and Adventist started talking and moved forward with this a few years ago,” said Harding, of Lutz. “I never thought we would have merged before the hospital was built. It was back then when we figured out it is better to work with each other instead of against each other. I want everyone to know it was actually Norm Stein. He took the first critical steps to make this happen.”
Stein retired as the president and CEO of UCH when the companies merged.
“If you take a helicopter ride above here, and I did two times, and fly over, you see a Super Target and Super Walmart,” Stein said. “I said that area needs a hospital for sure if it has those two.”
Stein added that he will soon be living just north of the facility and jokingly said it was nice for AHS to build him a hospital.
After the groundbreaking, Harding said, “I’ve been working on this for three years and was responsible for putting the design together. It is just a beautiful day that is finally here. Not only for Adventist Health System, but really for the community. Even though we have a hospital in Zephyrhills, it’s about 15 miles away, and UCH in the south, when it comes to any kind of injury, time is extremely important. Having this hospital for the community of Wesley Chapel, we just couldn’t be more glad to be here and serve this area.
Brian Adams will become the facility’s president and CEO in January. He is currently the chief operating officer of Florida Hospital Altamonte, part of AHS.
“Not everyone in a community uses the library,” Adams said. “Believe it or not, not everyone goes to the malls. But at some point everyone is touched in a community by the hospital.”
“This is a really exciting project for the Wesley Chapel community to have the doctors and physicians they want right by their homes,” Adams continued. “We’re actually right across the street from Seven Oaks where my home will be. Just having opportunity to be part of what’s happening in Pasco County, I’m thrilled to be part of it.”
The hospital will take from 18-24 months to build and will use a design that brings a natural element to healthcare while keeping loved ones close by.
“Studies prove patients recover better in an environment that allows them to relax,” Adams said. “Nothing is more relaxing than nature. The rooms in the hospital are also designed so the family can stay with the patient. That’s the other piece that’s important to healthcare today — to have rooms that are designed to be a part of the care. So in addition to a great view, families will have the ability to stay with together.”
Wesley Chapel Medical Center
Location: just north of SR 56 on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard
Size: 200,000-square-foot facility, 52 acres
Project length: 18-24 months
Proposed cost: $121 million
Beds: 80 initially with plans to expand to 300
Services: obstetrics, pediatrics, women’s and men’s services, general surgery, an emergency department with helicopter pad, a comprehensive medical fitness program, orthopedics and sports medicine.
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