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40th Anniversary: Cape Coral Hospital marks major milestone

By Staff | Aug 17, 2017

For four decades, Cape Coral Hospital has cared for the residents of and visitors to the city.

When the hospital opened its doors in 1977, it was a 94-bed hospital that employed 253 men and women. Today, the facility features 291 private rooms, including a 42-bed emergency department, and houses 1,200 employees, a staff of over 600 physicians and a team of more than 1,000 volunteers.

“We’re definitely proud that we’re a community hospital,” Wendy Piascik, vice president of Patient Care Services for the hospital, said. “We try to take care of everything that comes our way.”

Last month, the facility marked its 40th anniversary serving the area.

Piascik explained what makes the hospital unique is that its full range of services enable most procedures and treatments to be handled on site, so patients do not have to head into Fort Myers.

“For most of the things that patients experience, they can be cared for right here,” she said.

Piascik noted that Pine Island and Matlacha also benefit due to proximity.

If there is a need that the hospital cannot handle, like open heart surgery, there are options.

“There is a very expeditious way to transfer patients,” she said.

The growth of the city as more people trickled in spurred the establishment of the hospital.

“The stories are told that a lone physician would travel by boat to come to Cape Coral,” Piascik said. “With this community growing, it was not the safest thing for patients. That was really the beginnings.”

In the years to follow, the facility added more beds and opened its obstetrics services. In 1981, the first baby – Maggie Miller, daughter of Bill and Sue Miller – was born in the emergency department.

“Just responding to the growing population and much younger population,” she said. “And being responsive to that need certainly kept people looking at Cape Coral as a destination to live.”

The hospital opened the new emergency wing at the Del Prado Boulevard entrance for $11 million in 1985. The following year, the new Lifetime Involvement in Fitness and Education Center opened.

In 1989, the cardiac catheterization lab opened with an auxiliary pledge of $100,000. A year later, the facility implemented the area’s first cancer program accredited by the American College of Surgeons.

The hospital merged with the former Lee Memorial Health System in 1996.

Piascik explained that there had been issues with the existing private management.

“(The merger) really brought more of a network of care,” she said.

With the support of existing facilities in place, patients could be better served.

“The right care at the right time at the right cost,” Piascik said.

Asked about big milestones, she pointed to the primary stroke certification five years ago.

“We do have a cardiac observation unit,” Piascik said.

Patients with chest pain do not have to be rushed to another hospital – they can be evaluated first.

She also noted the implementation and expansion of the facility’s obstetrical services.

“We were the first hospital to provide a gentle C-section,” Piascik said.

Instead of being whisked away right after birth, a child is put on its mother’s chest or even nursed.

“It really is very beneficial to the baby and the mom,” she said.

The expansion of the emergency department was also a big milestone.

“We do have one of the busier ERs in the system,” Piascik said.

It is estimated there are about 60,000 visits annually.

“I think it’s just our year-round population,” she said, adding that the Cape also continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the state.

Despite the influx of new residents, there is no hurry to expand in the near future.

“We have the resources we need to take care of the people we have,” Piascik said, noting that there are idle beds in the summer. “Cape Coral Hospital is keeping pace with what the community needs now.”

“At some point in the future, however, resources will need to be re-evaluated,” she added.

Down the road, services and care for senior citizens will be more of a priority.

“We at Cape Coral Hospital participate in a program called NICHE, Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders,” Piascik said. “We try to focus on the well-being care of the elderly.”

With the new Wellness Center on site, preventative or maintenance programs will also be big.

“There’s a lot of programs offered through Lee Health here,” she said.

For more information, visit: www.leehealth.org/facilities/cape-coral-hospital.asp.

Cape Coral Hospital is at 636 Del Prado Blvd.