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HealthPark Medical Center turns 20

By Staff | Dec 15, 2011

In late 1991, Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” was topping music charts, “The Silence of the Lambs” was walking away with top Oscar honors and, in Southwest Florida, the first step in delivering a new type of healthcare experience came to life with the opening of HealthPark Medical Center.

On Monday, Dec. 19, HealthPark will celebrate its 20-year anniversary of serving the healthcare needs of Southwest Florida, and its lasting impact on the development of South Lee County over the past two decades.

Lee Memorial Health System President Jim Nathan will kick off the anniversary celebration Dec. 19, at 11 a.m., in the HealthPark atrium with an official cake cutting ceremony. The public is invited to join HealthPark patients, staff and volunteers.

Later that evening during an invitation-only event, Nathan, Health System trustees and senior medical staff will recognize the 122 employees who opened HealthPark 20 years ago, and still work there today. Long-time Children’s Hospital benefactors Norman and Mary Love of Norman Love Confections will provide custom desserts for the evening in celebration of HealthPark’s anniversary and service to residents of Southwest Florida.

From gladiolus fields

to a million patient visits per year

In the mid-1980s, Bass Road in South Lee County was a rustic two-lane country road embraced by former gladiolus fields turned into cucumber and potato fields that seemingly stretched to Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach. That was about to change through the work of a small group of individuals who envisioned a revolutionary concept in health care that would change life in South Lee County forever.

“We were committed to building a unique and total health care experience, not just a hospital,” said Nathan. “We knew our success would change not just the delivery of healthcare in Southwest Florida, but would serve as a catalyst to transform the entire South Lee County community around HealthPark.”

Today, that vision from 20 years ago has been realized. Out of the 400 acres acquired to build HealthPark in the late ’80s, only 15 acres remain undeveloped. Lee Healthcare Resources, a supporting Foundation for LMHS, and its development arm, HealthPark Florida has managed the process of building out the HealthPark Florida campus.

The centerpiece of the community, HealthPark Medical Center, accepted its first patients on Dec. 1, 1991. With 220 beds, HealthPark opened as a center for obstetrics, pediatrics and cardiac care services. From the outset, HealthPark Medical Center was designed to standout from other hospitals with its unique four-story atrium creating more of a resort experience than a traditional hospital experience for patients, staff and visitors.

“We wanted to set a tone of a healing environment versus a hospital from the very moment you step inside,” says Nathan. “The atrium accomplished that and much more. It truly set the tone for how HealthPark would develop over the next two decades.”

Carefully planned development over a 20-year period has achieved the original vision of creating a campus-like community encompassing the complete life cycle with health care services, residential development and commercial development, all woven together.

During the past two decades the campus has become home to The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, Cypress Cove Retirement Community, HealthPark Care and Rehabilitation Center, Lee Memorial Health System Outpatient Services, Hope Hospice, Ronald McDonald House and numerous physician offices and medical laboratories.

In 2005, an expansion at HealthPark Medical Center increased the total number of beds to 368 with expanded intensive care and medical surgical care services. Today, HealthPark has more than a million patient visits each year including The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and the heart institute, which is the only Accredited Chest Pain Center in the five-county region.

As envisioned, HealthPark’s presence has fueled commercial and residential development around the campus and along the Summerlin Road and Bass Road corridors which provide access to HealthPark. Two-lane roads have been replaced with four-lane highways and dedicated bike paths to accommodate the area’s burgeoning population and desirable lifestyle due its location.

In January 2012, Park Royal Psychiatric Hospital will open on the HealthPark campus, one more step in completing the vision to offer a full complement of healthcare services in one location.

Next up for HealthPark – “America’s Newest Children’s Hospital” – a new 136-bed facility that, thanks to generous community support, will break ground in 2013.