New clinics bring health care closer to home
By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
The famine that once afflicted medical care in central Pasco County has become something of a feast of shiny new medical offices.
Once largely ignored by physicians, Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes -- two of the region's fastest growing suburban communities -- enjoy the bounty of three new medical clinics.
The first to open, in January, was the airy glass compound of Point of Care Clinics on Gateway Boulevard southwest of Interstate 75 and State Road 54.
Six physicians -- specializing in family care, rheumatology, cardiology, and colon-rectal and general surgery -- see patients there.
Across the street on the north side of SR 54, Florida Medical Clinic opened Sept. 11 in a refurbished Shoney's restaurant.
Joseph Cozzolino, a family doctor, is the first doctor to settle in the Wesley Chapel clinic.
"We offer family medicine and basic X-rays, but we are looking at getting more family practitioners and have specialists rotate here," office staffer Miranda Kline said.
Both Point of Care and Florida Medical are satellite offices of older businesses in Zephyrhills. A third new practice, about 10 miles farther west on SR 54, originates in Clearwater.
Trillium Medical Group hung its shield last summer on the former Florida Power building less than a mile east of U.S. 41.
It's run by two family practitioners, Diane Normandin and Mark Roberts. The office estimates it enrolls an average of six to 10 new patients a day. No surprise there. For years, medical care has lagged behind housing growth in central Pasco. For many residents, treatment had been no closer than doctors' offices at University Community Hospital in Tampa.
Three years from now, central Pasco could get its first hospital: a branch of Zephyrhills' East Pasco Medical Center that has lined up 50 acres on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard north of SR 56.
The first phase of the hospital, including doctors' offices and an emergency room, is expected by 2005. Projections for 20 years hence show the hospital growing to seven stories, with room enough for 300 beds.
But first East Pasco has to justify its Wesley Chapel expansion to regulators with the state Agency for Health Care Administration.
Hospital spokesman Jerry Sterner estimates the market reach of Wesley Chapel at 145,000 people, including residents living over the county line in New Tampa.
Another medical office has trained its sights on Wesley Chapel: Zephyrhills ophthalmologist Stuart Kaufman plans to open an eye surgery center on six acres west of Bruce B. Downs.
Until earlier this year, Kaufman's land, next to SouthTrust Bank south of SR 54, belonged to East Pasco Medical Center. But the clinics East Pasco planned for the property are destined for the hospital site farther south.
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