North Florida Regional Medical Center unveils its new South Tower


A grand opening ceremony for the new South Tower at North Florida Regional Medical Center is held on Thursday in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.

North Florida Regional Medical Center was founded on pastureland 40 years ago. With 63 physicians, and no emergency room or maternity care, the hospital was destined to grow.

Thursday marked a significant milestone in that growth when the hospital held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate its new South Tower, marking the completion of the fourth phase of a $145 million expansion project that began five years ago.

The hospital now has 445 beds and employs more than 450 physicians.

"We got here not by a single-minded visionary. We got here by the previous generation of many of you in the audience," Ward Boston III, president and CEO of NFRMC, told a crowd of about 100 people, including hospital staff and community members.

"People bring new ideas to this hospital every day," Boston continued, adding that "putting patients first and teamwork" account for much of the hospital's successful expansion and continued growth.

The South Tower includes four floors and opens for patients on July 1. New in the tower are the second floor heart and vascular suite for cardiac patients. Step off the third floor elevator and a sign for "New Beginnings" welcomes you to the maternity, postpartum and neonatal intensive care, the latter of which is new for the hospital.

Previously, the hospital had a sick baby nursery. But after Alachua General Hospital closed in 2009, the need to provide neonatal intensive care became more urgent, Julie Samples, assistant chief nursing officer at NFRMC, said on a tour of the new unit Thursday.

"I came in 1990 to start the women's center and maternity service, and now fast-forward to 2013, and we have a brand new postpartum unit, NICU, and we are totally remodeling our labor and delivery area," which will be complete in September, Samples continued.

"The community continues to deliver babies here, and we want to meet those needs."

The NICU includes 12 incubator beds with radiant warmers, and four private rooms. Other features of the floor include a "transition room," which is a room without hospital equipment for parents to stay with their baby before they go home; and a "milk prep room" to prepare special formula for babies. According to clinical dietician Christina Cates, those services might one day include a breast milk donation center.

The fourth floor of the tower is for neurology and neurosurgery patients and includes 30 large private rooms, which also marks the first time these patients will be together on the same floor, making it easier for physicians and other staff to serve them, said Rose Watroba, the nursing director of neuroscience service.

"The layout is designed to maximize proximity to patients," Watroba said, pointing out the eight stations with computer monitors throughout the floor where staff can work and also respond to patient calls more quickly.

The South Tower includes 92 new private patients rooms, all with large bathrooms that have showers. Earth tones were used in the decor, with nature photography on the walls to accentuate the natural environment in North Florida.

Mitch Glaeser, chairman of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke at Thursday's event and said that the expansion is "a story about quality of life," with patient care at the heart of that measure.

Dr. Peter Sarantos, a surgeon at the hospital and chairman of the North Florida Regional board of trustees, said that prioritizing patient care distinguishes the hospital, especially at a time when health care systems are struggling.

"Most people agree that a lot in health care is broken," Sarantos said at the ceremony. "But focusing on patient care and outcomes is nothing new to North Florida. It's what we do best."

The fourth phase of expansion cost $62 million. Previous projects in the expansion project include the addition of an $18.7 million cancer center in 2009, a $4 million electrophysiology catheterization lab, expansion of the women's center operating rooms and a 562 space parking garage.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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