North Bay Hospital unveils big plans for expanding

More private patient rooms, a four-story office and a walk-in clinic are in the works.

Published May 15, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - Five years after losing a bid to relocate to Trinity, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital has filed plans to expand its downtown campus.

Preliminary site plans filed with City Hall call for one- and three-story additions to the south end of the existing building; a freestanding, four-story medical office building just east of the proposed additions; and a walk-in clinic along Madison Street.

North Bay also is proposing to vacate the stretch of Ohio Avenue between Madison Street and Forest Avenue as part of the expansion, said city planner Lisa Fierce. The plan shows a new stormwater retention pond to be constructed between Oak Hill Drive and Forest Avenue.

North Bay spokeswoman Beth Hardy said Monday the additions to the main hospital building would be to expand operating rooms and add private patient rooms. The walk-in clinic would be built at a later date than the additions and the medical offices.

Hardy would not say how many beds would be added and provided few other details, saying plans were likely to change. North Bay hopes to have more detailed information about the project by this summer, she said.

Because its campus is in a residential area, the 122-bed hospital had to buy nearby properties to expand. North Bay has taken its most visible steps toward expanding in the past two years, acquiring four nearby residential properties and tearing down three homes in September.

North Bay is owned by Clearwater nonprofit Morton Plant Mease Health Care. City Manager Scott Miller said his understanding is that the free-standing medical offices would be owned by a group of doctors rather than the nonprofit, which means the city could collect property taxes on the building.

In 2002, North Bay tried to move its operations out of New Port Richey to Trinity. But state officials blocked the move, giving the go-ahead instead to Community Hospital, the city's other hospital - and its largest taxpayer.

Hardy said North Bay would not need to go through a lengthy process with the Agency for Health Care Administration to add inpatient beds.

The preliminary site plan goes before the city's development review committee Thursday. Because it involves changes to the city's land use plan, it would eventually require the approval of the City Council.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at 727 869-6247 or jtillman@sptimes.com.