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Business Outlook 2006

Is there an open-heart surgeon in the house?

Now, the answer to that question may be yes. The county's hospitals are getting more specialized and more patients.

Published February 19, 2006

More health services and facilities will be available to Hernando County residents in 2006.

Recent expansions and renovations at the county's hospitals, along with added specialties, are also expected to steer the facilities toward more growth, hospital officials said.

Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill expects to open a new open-heart surgery facility this month. The $8.5-million Heart Institute will offer patients state-of-the-art care.

Seven cardiovascular surgeons will work in the 24,000-square-foot facility. They are expected to perform about 175 open-heart surgeries in the first year.

The hospital also expects catheterizations to increase more than 40 percent.

Last month, the county's largest hospital also opened a special procedures suite. Minimally invasive procedures, including IV conscious sedation, are offered in the new treatment area.

That means less risk, cost, trauma and pain, as well as faster recoveries, Oak Hill spokesman Richard Linkul said.

"The whole focus of our growth is to meet the needs of the growing community," Linkul said. "Before, no one was offering an open-heart program. That's what we've done in the last year."

In the past few months, Brooksville Regional Hospital staffers also moved into a new facility. The 186,000-square-foot hospital, west of Brooksville on Cortez Boulevard, is owned by the county and operated by Health Management Associates of Naples.

The $30-million facility features more advanced imaging and patient monitoring equipment, more emergency room capacity and more advanced technology.

"We're now more visible and attracting new physicians," said Brooksville Regional chief executive Tom Barb. "Our growth is a matter of a lot of things, coupled with good employees, of course."

Admissions are up by at least 30 percent over previous years, he said.

Just like its competitors, the hospital has been busy recruiting needed specialists, Barb said. Endocrinology experts are wanted, along with neurosurgeons and orthopedists.

"We're obviously very competitive and right now are really busy stabilizing what we've got," he said. "We want to meet the needs of the growing community."

In the past year, health care in Hernando County has hit an exciting stride of growth, Linkul said. During each quarter, Oak Hill's emergency room ranked in the top 25 percent of hospitals owned by HCA, or the Hospital Corporation of America, for profit margin.

Growth at the hospitals will allow more people to stay in the county for their care, he said. That keeps money where it belongs, so health care officials can work toward bringing more specialties to patients, he said.

"The key driver here is the growth," Linkul said. "We're giving people what they need."

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:08:19]

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