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Second hospital, COVID-19, Cape projects among town hall topics

By Staff | Apr 8, 2020

District 7 Cape Coral Councilmember Jessica Cosden held a Facebook Town Hall last night where residents could ask questions in a public forum while practicing social distancing behind their screen.

For an hour, Cosden fielded questions from the public on the social media site. Questions ranged from the current COVID-19 outbreak, her thoughts on building an additional hospital in the Cape and inquiries about city projects.

“I thought it went well, and I was able to answer a lot of questions,” Cosden said. “Anyone who wants to refer back to it now can. It will always be there.”

This was the first time Facebook was used in this format, but not the first time Cosden has held a public town hall. Officials thought the virtual option was the best way to go in today’s current health climate.

Cosden recognized residents could feel out of the loop during this time with no public gatherings permitted — another reason why giving the public an opportunity to get involved was important.

“We’re discouraging people to come to council meetings. We’re giving plenty of options for participation, but we don’t people to come and congregate and be close to each other,” Cosden said. “I’m always available for people to ask questions, but to set aside a specific time and have people come together digitally, was a good thing for civic engagement while at a time where everyone is cooped up and separated.”

One question from Cape resident and local nurse, Bryan De La Hunt, gained a lot o response from the community: did Cosden think the city needed another hospital?

“Let me start by saying that I think Lee Health has done a fabulous job, especially managing the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cosden replied on Facebook. “However, I do see a need for a second hospital in the largest city between Tampa and Miami! Our Economic Development Office is, and has been, actively working to attract new healthcare business to Cape Coral.”

In June of 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill stating that no certificate of need is required to build a hospital, opening the door to other providers who may want to come into the city.

“That’s a topic that people have been talking about since I can remember,” Cosden said in a phone interview after her town hall. “Of course, opening a hospital is not an easy thing to do. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I do think it’s an interesting prospect. Before I would support anything I would need more information but I’m not opposed to the idea of a second hospital.”

Cosden also addressed questions pertaining to the city’s Utility Expansion Project areas, local government, potential mask regulations and more.

“It’s very important to be transparent,” Cosden said. “I’m so glad I did this (town hall). I do really enjoy doing these. It’s good to just sit down for an hour and be able to talk directly to residents and be available to them. I wish I could do it more often.”

She said she hopes to hold another meeting of similar ilk in June or July.

Those who would like to view the discussion can visit the “City of Cape Coral Government” Facebook page and look under “events.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj