Public campaign launched to raise $17 million
Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel always knew that it would be expanding, but it didn’t expect to be doing so 2 ½ years ahead of schedule.
Hospital officials, local dignitaries and invited guests celebrated the beginning of a $78 million expansion project at a Aug. 12 gathering, that also marked the beginning of a public campaign to raise $17 million to support the project.
Florida Hospital and Adventist Health are committed to $61 million of the project’s cost, but the rest will come from a fundraising effort chaired by Tom Dempsey, owner of Saddlebrook Resort, which helped put Wesley Chapel on the map more than three decades ago.
Speakers praised the hospital for the quality of its care, during the event that included hors d’oeuvres, live music, muffins, parfaits, juice and coffee.
They noted the hospital’s reputation for excellence and said that, along with growth in the surrounding communities, has fueled the need to expand much sooner than initially expected.
“Wesley Chapel and Pasco County are on the rise,” Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, who lives in Wesley Chapel, told the crowd. “We’re on the rise because community partners like Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel.
“After only 2 ½ years, they’re moving forward with an expansion of this hospital. This was scheduled to be done in five years. That’s incredible.
“These things don’t happen by themselves, ladies and gentlemen. They only happen when you can build the trust and support of the community that surrounds you,” Moore said.
State Rep. Danny Burgess agreed.
“This is no coincidence that this is happening so quickly, only halfway through the projected five-year expansion timeline,” Burgess said.
“What we have here is nothing short of an incredible facility, an incredible hospital, an incredible team doing amazing healing, wellness and preventative work — and the community recognizes that,” he said.
“We talk a lot about infrastructure projects in my line of work, especially at the local level when I used to be mayor. We talk about projects like road expansions. We talk about public works. We talk about public safety. We talk about first responders.
“Those all tend to be government projects, government-related tasks.
“But I think what gets missed in that conversation is probably the most important infrastructure project a community can have, and that is your hospital. Because you better believe that families are looking for that. They’re looking to see how that hospital ranks in that community, the treatment level, the care that they receive,” Burgess said.
The state lawmaker said he speaks from personal experience about the quality of care the hospital provides because his 19-month-old daughter, Adeline, was delivered there. And, when his son Danny Burgess III arrives — expected any day — the family plans to be back at the hospital for his delivery, too.
Dr. Robert Rosequist, chief medical officer, talked about the area’s long need for a hospital.
“Twenty-eight years ago, when I started to practice out in Land O’ Lakes, there was a lot of cow pastures and vacation homes. A lot of pickup trucks. But even back then, when I was first living here, people would ask me: ‘Doc, when are we going to have a hospital?’
“In 2007, we started a formal planning board, and we started developing the hope for this hospital. And then, on a cold windy day in December, about five years ago, we sat here and dug the first shovel of dirt,” Rosequist said.
“We planted a tree, which unfortunately didn’t make it,” he said, drawing a roar of laughter from the crowd. “But the hospital did.”
Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel has fine equipment, including “the best MRI in the whole state,” Rosequist said.
But what sets the hospital apart, he said, is “the people and the staff — we really do care about our patients.”
A larger hospital is necessary, he added.
“We need to expand, because we can’t continue to provide that care in the existing bricks-and-mortar hospital we built just 2 ½ years ago,” Rosequist said.
Denyse Bales-Chubb, the hospital’s president and CEO, detailed the expansion plans.
The project involves 112,000 square feet of new space and nearly 11,000 square feet of renovated space. It includes 62 inpatient beds; 18 emergency rooms; five surgical suites and a Heart Catherization Lab. It also adds observation and recovery space, expanded support areas and some shelled space for future growth.
“These additions will allow us to better serve the patients coming to us for care and be prepared for the incredible growth this community is experiencing,” Bales-Chubb said.
The expansion will add three additional floors to the hospital’s center wing, and will add an additional three-story wing that will connect the south and center wings.
Robins & Morton, the construction company that built the hospital from the ground up, will be handling the expansion. Completion is expected by the end of 2016.
Dempsey, who is leading the “We Care” fundraising campaign, reminded the crowd what Wesley Chapel was like when he broke ground for Saddlebrook 35 years ago.
“When that groundbreaking was over, I took a good look around and I said, ‘There’s nothing here.’ You looked down (State Road) 54, there wasn’t a building, there wasn’t even a fruit stand. There was nothing. Absolutely zero,” Dempsey said.
Both Dempsey and Moore praised the vision demonstrated by the Porter family, owners of Wiregrass Ranch, who have sold off large chunks of their land to help shape the community of Wesley Chapel.
Don Porter and his wife, Lajuana, now both deceased, lived with children, J.D. and Quinn, on property now occupied by the hospital.
Quinn Miller said her family is gratified by the hospital’s success.
“We knew when the hospital came on board, it would be something vital to our area,” Miller said. “But, we had no idea that they would be almost three years ahead of schedule for this expansion.
“It’s wonderful to see. The facility is so impressive,” she said, adding it also is an important source of jobs.
Dempsey said he took on the leadership role in the fundraising effort because he believes in the cause.
“In just a short time, approximately three years, Florida Hospital has become an integral part of the community.
“I think they know what they’re doing. They have a great record. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hospital to anyone,” Dempsey said.
Like Burgess, Dempsey believes that a hospital is a necessary part of a community.
“The community needs a hospital,” Dempsey said.
“I think, we as people, want the peace of mind to know that there’s a top-notch hospital just around the corner, and that that hospital will have great medical services, great doctors, great nurses, great technology and great caregivers. And, we want the place to have an access to fine equipment, technology and great care giving. That’s what we want for our families and our friends,” Dempsey said.
Published August 19, 2015