Growing to Serve Our Communities
Building to Deliver Tomorrow’s Health Care
For BayCare and most U.S. health care systems, 2021 brought a second year of stress and struggle against the virus that causes COVID-19. Yet the pandemic also demonstrated the value of well-equipped, accessible health care facilities that have the capacity to provide high-quality care and the mission to serve all members of the community.
So, in 2021, despite the challenges, BayCare kept its plans for growth in West Central Florida on track.
The biggest projects: two new BayCare hospitals.
Ground was broken in late 2020 for BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel in eastern Pasco County, a new market area for BayCare. By the end of 2021, walls of the 318,000-square-foot hospital were up, and windows and doors were in. The hospital is scheduled to open in early 2023.
A New Hospital RisingBayCare chose to build its 16th hospital in the eastern Pasco County community of Wesley Chapel. Find out why and watch our progress in the story, video and time lapse below.
Construction also was underway on a replacement for the current South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City in eastern Hillsborough County. The existing hospital could not be sufficiently expanded to meet demand, so a new hospital is rising on a site a few miles away along the I-4 corridor. It is expected to open in 2024.
Other hospitals in the BayCare network have gone through expansions or improvements on their current sites.
In February, a three-year, $120 million expansion of St. Joseph’s Hospital-South in Riverview was completed, more than doubling the number of beds to 223, adding a neonatal intensive care unit and a pediatric inpatient treatment area, and expanding the emergency department.
A five-year, $107 million expansion at Winter Haven Hospital in Polk County concluded with the opening in March of a new unit with 24 medical/surgical/telemetry rooms.
At Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, the Bilheimer Tower opened in September, which added 76 new licensed beds plus 30 observation beds, new critical care rooms and a new main entrance for the hospital.
St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg opened its new hospital cafeteria in September, just one component of a $152 million project that includes a 90-bed patient tower.
Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in western Pasco County unveiled a new 21-bed acute care medical unit and dedicated a renovated, expanded chapel in March.
Hospitals weren’t the only BayCare facilities that grew in 2021.
The number of BayCare HealthHubs, a unique model of care that houses multiple health care and wellness services in one facility, grew to four with the December opening of the HealthHub in Land O’ Lakes in Pasco County. The other HealthHubs are in Largo, Valrico and South Tampa.
In July, BayCare celebrated the opening of the first fixed location for La Esperanza Clinic on U.S. 301 South in Wimauma. The clinic offers free health care to low-income, uninsured residents of southern Hillsborough County.
A New Hospital for a Growing Community
Building a new hospital is a big undertaking and hospital systems don’t do it every day, so deciding when and where to build can take years. That was the case with BayCare’s decision to build its next hospital in the unincorporated Wesley Chapel area of Pasco County.
BayCare already operates one hospital, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, on the coastal western edge of Pasco County, but in recent years growth has exploded in the interior parts of the county where BayCare had no hospital.
“We started looking at the Wesley Chapel community about 10 years ago,” said Glenn Waters, executive vice president and chief operating officer of BayCare. “That market is rapidly growing and there’s only one other provider in the Wesley Chapel market providing acute care hospital services. We thought the community deserved to have an alternative. Plus, we have a lot of BayCare team members who live in that area, and they said, ‘Why isn’t there a BayCare hospital here to serve us?’”
Ground finally was broken in December 2020 for BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel (BHWC), and by the end of 2021, the hospital was rising quickly on open acreage on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
BayCare wants to be a good corporate citizen and neighbor in this new market, so health system representatives have met with Pasco government and business leaders, physicians practicing in the area and residents of a nearby neighborhood to answer questions and allay any concerns.
“As we go into the Wesley Chapel market, we want to be mindful to work with the community and meet the needs of the community,” Waters said. “There will be a local board of directors for the hospital that will include representatives of that community. That’s really important because they can help us identify the needs of the community and how we can best meet those needs.”
BHWC’s first president, Becky Schulkowski, was named in August 2021. A clinical pharmacist by training, she is keeping an eye on construction progress while also building connections in the community and putting together the hospital’s leadership team.
The $246 million hospital will offer all the services of a community hospital, with 86 beds, an emergency department with 20 beds, four operating rooms and two endoscopy suites. It was designed so it can be expanded as the community grows. The facility already is providing jobs. On any given day, some 300 men and women in the construction trades work on the bustling site, and the completed hospital will employ roughly 250 people. It is expected to open in 2023.
“We’re really excited to be a part of the Pasco County community,” said Schulkowski, who worked for BayCare in other leadership roles for four years before she was promoted to hospital president. “This hospital brings additional access to care. It brings choice in health care providers. And it brings the values of BayCare to the community. We set ourselves apart by living the values of dignity, excellence, respect, responsibility and trust, and we bring those values to everyone who walks through our doors and to all the care we provide. It’s an honor to be part of this project.”
Glenn Waters, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer
Becky Schulkowski, President, BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel