By Matt Wiley

Although the walls are still bare and many rooms sit unfinished or, at least unfurnished, the under-construction Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel (FHWC) is already an impressive sight, with its three-story glass atrium lining the front wall, reflecting the work being done on the outside to those passing by on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. The hospital will be an extraordinary addition to the community and drive the local economy when it opens to patients in early October.

Accompanying the hospital will be a three-story, $10-million medical office building that will house a unique Wellness Center, with one floor solely dedicated to physicians’ offices. Alter+Care, a Chicago-based company that is developing the Wellness Center project, broke ground on the 100,000-sq.-ft. building under clear skies on April 25 to a crowd of Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce members and Florida Hospital executives.

The new hospital, which is ahead of schedule for completion — executive director Connie Bladon of the FHWC Foundation says construction should be finished in July, with a community open house planned for September and a grand opening expected in early October — served as the backdrop for the Wellness Center ceremony.


Getting The Grand Tour

Besides inspectors, not many members of the general public have yet been able to see what’s inside the nearly completed 80-bed, $150-million, 200,000-square-foot hospital being developed by contracting company Robins & Morton at 2600 BBD, just north of the Shops at Wiregrass mall.

The New Tampa Neighborhood News was invited by Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce members Cathy Bickham and Mary Adele Cluck, who were joined by Ron and Charlotte Dykes (the owners of the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise located across BBD from the hospital) to join an exclusive tour by assistant vice president of construction and support services for Florida Hospital’s Tampa Bay Division and 2012 Honorary Mayor of Wesley Chapel John Negley on April 17.

Donning hard hats and safety glasses, the group, myself included, cruised the more than 52-acre property by golf cart, getting a feel for what will become the first-ever hospital in the Wesley Chapel area this October.

Until FHWC opens, most of the closest hospitals to Wesley Chapel are FHWC’s sister hospitals — Florida Hospital Tampa (formerly University Community Hospital) in the University area of North Tampa, FH Carrollwood and FH Zephyrhills.

“It’ll save travel time,” says Bickham. “It’s a great location. Wesley Chapel residents won’t have to go out of town.”

Cluck, too, was excited about the upcoming opening of the hospital. “Having this technologically-advanced hospital is a sign of how much the local community has grown and will continue to grow,” she says. “It’s something that this area has needed for a long time and is a welcome addition.”

As we approached the main building after a tour of the surrounding grounds, Negley gave us some background on the project. “We started the design in 2008,” he says. “It was designed specifically to fit the Wesley Chapel area. The design is timeless.”

Negley first gave us a tour of the central energy plant outside the medical center. It is here that the entire hospital is powered and also where it gets its water. “The Pasco County water treatment plant can’t handle all of the water (needed) for the hospital,” Negley says. “So, we put in a system to treat our own water.”

Since the water that regularly comes through the pipes is too “hard” to drink before it reaches the treatment plant, the hospital has its own water treatment center. Similar to a reverse osmosis (R/O) system, water is purified and “softened” on site and pumped into the hospital as “bottle quality.”

Also in the energy plant was an entire room full of electrical breakers, each valued at more than $15,000. A typical house has one breaker on the wall. In case of emergency, such as a power outage caused by a hurricane, the hospital has enough back-up generators to keep it powered for 72 hours, supported by a 25,000-gallon diesel fuel tank to keep everything running until the power is restored.

On the way to the back entrance, we passed by the “healing/tranquility gardens,” a beautiful courtyard area in the rear of the hospital where patients’ loved ones may “relax or reflect.” Negley says there are more than 1,400 trees and 60,000 plants on the property, fed by more than 110,000 linear feet of irrigation hose.

“I especially liked the tranquility gardens,” says Cluck. “It’s not something that you see in most hospitals.”

As we entered through the rear loading dock, it was apparent where most of the work was being done. The hallways were bustling with activity, as workers installed equipment and inspectors passed by with clipboards. Emergency alarms that were being tested echoed overhead.

We ascended the stairs to the third floor to begin the tour, as the elevators were not yet in service. Quite the opposite of the first floor, much of the third floor looked nearly complete and almost ready to care for patients.

Windows stretched from the floor to the ceiling in many of the 80 patient bedrooms (photo, below) of the new hospital, each of which are located on the 2nd or 3rd floor to provide patients with privacy.

Each room also features five electrical systems and a 42” flat-screen TV monitor that will allow patients to watch TV, and even interact with loved ones via email or Facebook. The monitors also will be full of information on whatever it is that has brought the patient to the hospital because, Negley says, “when patients are better informed, it helps the healing process.”

Bladon says that, in fact, patients will not be able to be discharged from the hospital without first watching certain videos about their conditions.

In addition, patients’ charts, prescribed medication from the hospital’s in-house pharmacy and the patients’ wristbands will all be bar-coded. Before taking the medication, all three will be scanned to make sure that there are no discrepancies (such as patient allergies or other medications in use that shouldn’t be mixed together) and that everything matches up for the patient, otherwise the scanner will alert the doctor or nurse.

Expectant mothers will be able to enjoy a relaxing Whirlpool bathtub in each of the maternity rooms, and there is a separate maternity emergency suite for patients who end up requiring emergency Caesarian sections, with a dedicated elevator for that purpose.

As we made our way down the hallway, Negley pointed out a few things that bothered him about traditional hospitals.

“Some pet peeves of mine,” he says, “are the lights in hallways. They’re always in the center of the ceiling, and if you’re on a stretcher, they’re always shining right in your eyes.” To resolve the problem, the lights in the halls of the new hospital are conveniently placed on the sides of the ceiling.

Other improvements include the fire sprinklers; these usually hang down from the ceiling and are prone to spider webs and other pollution in an environment that needs to be as clean as possible. To fix this, the sprinklers themselves are recessed into the ceiling and pop down when activated.

To assist patients, the halls are lined with recessed handrails. To assist nurses, the curved walls, rather than traditional straight-line walls (in the individual hallways) all meet up directly with a nurse’s station, so the nurses can see everything happening and everyone in the hallway at once.

Also, instead of stocking nursing supplies from inside a patient’s room, disturbing the patients if they’re resting, supplies are stocked through two-way cupboards that are accessible from both the hallway and the patient’s room.


Hurricane Protection, Too!

As we made our way to the bottom floor, home to the 17-room emergency and triage center, Negley pointed out that despite the massive three-story window lining the front wall of the hospital, standing behind it is actually the safest place to be during a hurricane or a severe-storm. The windows are “hurricane-proof” and, he says, “are able to withstand the force of a 2”x4” piece of wood smashing into the window horizontally at 120 miles per hour.”

In addition to the C-section suite, the FHWC’s state-of-the-art emergency room, which includes 16 separate emergency “suites,” is located on the hospital’s first floor and houses four 850-sq.-ft. surgery suites, or operating rooms. The emergency room also features its own X-ray room and four pediatric emergency rooms.

Inside the pediatric patient emergency rooms, animated scenes or movies will entertain kids, played on the walls by projectors and ambient lighting, helping to distract them from the pain or discomfort they may be feeling. When the child enters the room, they pick out a scene from a wall-pad switch, similar to where a light switch would be. Once chosen, the scene, accompanied by sound effects, is played out in front of the child on the wall, and the lights change color to match the scene.

Keeping kids entertained also was a factor when the waiting room was designed. It will feature an interactive wall for children to play with, as well as a large, 900-gallon fish tank, with fish donated by the Florida Aquarium, located in the Channelside District of downtown Tampa. The fish tank will split the waiting room in half, one side for adults, one side for kids. Instead of a loudspeaker, like most waiting rooms, patients waiting to be seen will be given a buzzer, similar to what waiting patrons receive at a restaurant.

“I really liked the waiting room,” says Bickham. “I think the focus on keeping kids occupied is really important. It will really help keep their minds off why they are in the hospital.”


Workout For Wellness

Another aspect of the hospital that will make it even more beneficial to the community is the separate medical office building and Wellness Center to be located adjacent to the hospital, (which held its groundbreaking on April 25), for both patients and members of the community.

The Wellness Center will be unique in that it will have “crossover medical components,” meaning that physicians will work in the building and be able to prescribe exercise routines to hospital patients and outpatients to help them get healthy.

With a membership, local residents also will be able to enjoy the 50,000-sq.-ft. Wellness Center and its two pools (one for swimming laps, the other for physical therapy), 1/8-mile indoor running/walking track, workout area, café, kids zone, physical rehab services and other amenities that make up the first two floors of the building.

One half of the second floor and the entire third floor will serve as medical offices for physicians of all different specialties. Their offices can serve as a satellite location, or as their primary office. Space is still available. The medical office building and Wellness Center are expected to be completed and open by January 2013.

FHWC, although not yet completed, is looking towards the future, with plans and room to expand into a 288-bed facility (see pics on previous page).

Scheduled to open in early October, much work is still being done to complete the hospital, but judging by the progress already made, residents of the surrounding communities can look forward to a first-class facility to help keep the Wesley Chapel and northern New Tampa areas healthy. We will keep you posted on all of the news coming out of FHWC, including any announcements of homes about to be built in the Wiregrass Ranch area.

According to the hospital’s website, FHWC is part of the Adventist Health System, a not-for-profit healthcare organization that emphasizes Christ at the center of care. Today, Adventist supports 43 hospitals nationwide, with FHWC to be the system’s 20th hospital in Florida.

For additional information, please visit This story also is available on, with additional pictures. We will provide more FHWC updates in the future.

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