Hospital chief unveils blueprint
By JENNIFER GOLDBLATT, Times Staff Writer
Not even six weeks on the job, and East Pasco Medical Center chief executive Scott Pittman has firmed up a game plan to provide medical care in Wesley Chapel, and to refocus care at the Zephyrhills hospital to complement it.
On Thursday, Pittman described plans to build a $10-million to $20-million medical office and outpatient diagnostic services complex on 19 acres the hospital owns on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard just south of State Road 54. He hopes to complete that complex by 2003.
Over the next five years, Pittman wants to build an inpatient hospital on 50 acres of the Wiregrass Ranch that the hospital is considering purchasing from landowner Don Porter.
But Pittman said building the inpatient tower will depend on finding and being able to demonstrate a need for the hospital beds to the Agency for Health Care Administration, and formalizing a partnership with University Community Hospital at that site.
"The rate of growth in Wesley Chapel is tremendous and there's no indication that the growth rate will stop in the next 10 years," Pittman said. "When you project out how long it takes to build a medical facility, by the time the community needs it, it will be overdue."
East Pasco Medical Center, which is in Zephyrhills, says that it currently serves about 40 percent of Wesley Chapel's population.
On the 19 acres, Pittman plans to provide a one-stop shopping complex of outpatient services that would serve residents' day-to-day needs.
It would include physicians' offices, a complete lab, CT, MRI, PET and nuclear medicine scanners, physical, occupational and speech therapy, audiology testing and a women's diagnostic center, complete with facilities for mammography, pap smears, bone density testing and ultrasound. The complex could also include a free-standing physical fitness center.
The second phase of the project would include an inpatient hospital-bed tower. Pittman says he has had discussions with University Community Hospital about working together in that area, though no specifics have been ironed out on what any partnership would entail.
"The details are pretty sketchy," said Norm Stein, president and chief executive of University Community Hospital of Tampa. "A lot depends on the growth in this area, what's needed and what we could do together. The most important thing is that we're talking and trying to work together. It's better than to directly compete in the market."
Part of the challenge, Pittman said, will be "balancing whatever we do in Wesley Chapel with Zephyrhills," to avoid taking away too much business from East Pasco Medical Center. "We want to keep up the growth of this hospital and so our challenge is balancing both."
To do that, Pittman said he wants to focus on serving the broader elderly and middle-aged population at the Zephyrhills hospital, for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke.
To that end, Pittman plans to reapply to AHCA for a Certificate of Need for open-heart services.
The agency had recently refused its application to build an open-heart surgery unit. He also is planning a $15-million expansion for the Zephyrhills hospital, which would expand the ER to 40 beds -- from the existing 23 beds -- and would expand and modernize the operating rooms.
-- Jennifer Goldblatt covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is
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