Growth is ongoing at medical centers


Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 at 10:25 p.m.
As North Central Florida heads into 2003, debate will undoubtedly continue about plans to vaccinate hospital and public health workers, law enforcement, emergency medical and fire personnel against the potential threat of smallpox. In the event of an act of bioterrorism, these folks will be the "first responders."
The vaccination program will begin later in January.
Another public health issue is expected to re-emerge with the mosquito population this summer: West Nile virus.
Efforts are now under way to develop a way to test blood products for the virus, after several victims apparently contracted the virus through blood transfusions. Also still to be determined: Whether a vaccine can be created to protect humans against the mosquito-borne virus.
Debate should heat up over the potential of cloning for reproductive and therapeutic purposes. Lawmakers, clergy, scientists and the lay public are all paying attention to how this promising technology, which is meant to make life better, is used or misused.
Visible evidence of change will be obvious both at North Florida Regional Medical Center and at Shands at the University of Florida/Health Science Center complex, where three major building projects are in the works.
The Genetics and Cancer Research Center, which also involves the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research, is going to be built at the corner of Mallory Road and North-South Drive, bordering Archer Road.
The two facilities will share the same complex. Construction will begin this summer, with a final inspection date of Jan. 2, 2005.
The second big project is the Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Institute, where construction was to have started this month. It should be completed in May 2004.
Construction on the Health Professions, Nursing and Pharmacy Complex began in December 2001 in what was a parking area behind the Health Science Center. The first two levels of that building should be open and used for teaching beginning in January. The top three levels, housing faculty and staff offices, should be set in March.
The expansion project at North Florida Regional Medical Center remains on schedule. The $72-million project will be completed in late October, with 165,000 square feet being added to the current structure.
Since construction began in early 2002, the hospital's helipad has been relocated to the top of the emergency department, a 500-space parking lot opened on the west side, and a new emergency department entrance opened.
In October, the first steel beams were placed for the new addition. The final steel will be topped off in mid- to late January, hospital sources say. Shortly after the steel frame is completed, the outer skin of the building will begin going up.
Diane Chun can be reached at (352) 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

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