These are just a few of the roughly 4,000 people who showed up for BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel’s community open house on Feb. 18. (Photo: John C. Cotey)

Scooping his free Island Fin Poké Co. poké bowl into his mouth, Trey Walker paused for a second before answering the question of the day at BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel’s open house last month.

“I don’t like hospitals,” the Tampa truck driver said, smiling, “but if I ever need to go to one, I hope it’s this one.”

Walker was one of an estimated 4,000 people who took part in the area’s newest hospital’s open house on Feb. 18, which featured tours, food trucks, vendor booths and a kids area.

BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel was expected to open to at least emergency room patients today (Mar. 7). The 86-bed, state-of-the-art hospital is located on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. just south of S.R. 54.

BayCare Wesley Chapel president Becky Schulkowski was thrilled to finally unveil the hospital to the public.

“It’s just been extremely exciting, rewarding, and humbling seeing the response from the community,” she said. “I’m being thanked for coming to this community. It just feels like such a blessing…and we will live up to their expectations.”

The new hospital features private rooms with Alexa-enabled services, and a Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. (Photo: John C. Cotey)

BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel boasts 318,000 sq. ft. of space, and will feature comprehensive medical services and health care resources, including an emergency department, an intensive care unit with virtual-monitoring beds, diagnostic services such as imaging and on-site lab services, and physical rehabilitation. BayCare is investing $246 million in the project, which will be the 16th link in the nonprofit’s chain, which has locations throughout Central Florida. The Wesley Chapel location will be just the second full-service BayCare hospital in Pasco County and will feature outstanding technology like the CT scanner and a  DaVinci Robotic Surgical System.

The DaVinci robot drew a few oohs and aahs from those on the tour, its multiple arms coiled like a resting octopus. It allows for very precise incisions and techniques used by surgeons, including things like hernia repairs and colorectal surgery.

 “So, if anyone with colon cancer needs to have parts of their colon removed, it can be done with the robot,” Schulkowski said. “The procedures with the robot really allows you to heal faster and get out of the hospital quicker. With some of those bigger surgeries, before we started using the robotic surgery, you would be in the hospital for five days (or more) after that procedure. Now, you can be home in one or two days.…and what most people want is to get out of the hospital and get home.”

Much of the planning that went into BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel was about comfort.

 “We really thought about what it feels like to be a patient, and how much most people really don’t like to be in a hospital,” Schulkowski said. “So, we really tried to design it with that perspective in mind, and really make it a comfortable, healing environment.”

That means all of the patient rooms are private, and have integrated Alexa, a voice-controlled virtual assistant that allows you to call your nurse, dim the lights, raise the blinds or the thermostat and other things, with just your voice.

The hospital provides most general surgeries, orthopaedic surgeries, urology and a cath lab to diagnose any heart issues, Schulkowski said.

“We went all out to make sure we had the absolute best technology available for the community,” she added.

While 86 rooms may not seem like a lot, BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel is expandable. Schulkowski said the option is available to build a second tower directly above the ER if needed. “We can pretty much double everything,” she said.

Also planned is a 20-bed observation unit, which could be built next to the ER on the backside of the hospital, by 2027. “That will allow us to cohort what we call observation patients, patients that come in and maybe have chest pain, and we need to run a couple tests and see is it a heart problem? Or is it just really bad heartburn?,” Schulkowski said. “While you’re waiting for those tests, you don’t need to be up in the hospital, you’re just waiting on getting some test results. We’re gonna keep you comfortable, get those test results and then, hopefully, send you on your way.”

It was ten years ago that AdventHealth (then Florida Hospital) Wesley Chapel opened its doors, giving the Wesley Chapel and New Tampa areas newer (and closer) options for care. And, next up is Orlando Hospital Wesley Chapel, a 300-bed facility under construction on S.R. 56.

The nonprofit company that is opening BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel understands that there are options. Schulkowski said her staff is ready to meet the challenge. In fact, one of her pet projects was the sculpture out front — five ribbons coming together. Each ribbon has one of the five BayCare values engraved on it: Trust, Respect, Responsibility, Excellence and Dignity.

“I wanted the very first thing that our community saw when they came onto campus (were) the BayCare values, because that’s what we bring to this community,” Schulkowski said. 

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