TARPON SPRINGS – Nobody expected Tarpon Springs to grow as much as it has. The executive board at Florida Hospital North Pinellas certainly didn’t.
But eight years ago, when the emergency room was deemed too small to meet the needs of the community, there wasn’t enough money to fix the problems. Now, they’re looking for the money.
“Access to emergency care is critical to this community,” said Mike Kouskoutis, a Tarpon Springs lawyer who sits on the hospital’s board, at the June 3 City Commission meeting. “The ER is very, very busy and it’s too small.”
Currently, Florida Hospital North Pinellas includes a 13-bed facility, the area’s only accredited chest pain center, a primary stroke center and a no-wait ER (door-to-doctor in five minutes or less). The hospital also offers just nine dedicated ER parking spots and two dedicated ambulance-loading zones, neither of which fully satisfies the needs of patients.
Hospital President and CEO Bruce Bergherm gave a presentation to the Tarpon Springs City Commission about the hospital’s current conditions and future needs.
According to his presentation, total visits to the hospital exceeded 20,000 in 2013, and that number is expected to rise by about 10 percent by the end of this year. Traffic also poses a problem, as there is no traffic light at South Pinellas Avenue and cars and ambulances often have trouble turning into the parking lot.
“The facility was built in 1978,” Bergherm said, “and, frankly, there’s a capacity issue and certainly there’s a privacy issue.”
In 2008, a study showed that, by 2017, Florida Hospital North Pinellas would need at least 20,000 square feet, costing anywhere from $20 million to $35 million. New estimates would have to be made before the hospital could begin any construction. Due to the size of the project, a special referendum to gain public approval would likely be needed.
A newly developed committee, including representatives from the hospital, the city, the Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital Foundation and Adventist Health System, will begin a study into the hospital’s needs and the finances associated with such growth. City Commissioner Townsend Tarapani expressed his desire to see the project move forward and volunteered to serve as a liaison on the committee at the June 3 City Commission meeting.
Kouskoutis concluded the presentation by thanking the Commission for their consideration and their continued support of the hospital.
“Back in ’08, when we looked at the pricing of what it would be, there were cheaper ways to do it,” Kouskoutis said. “But this community deserves the best.”