Around the State- Northwest- Dec. 2001
Walton County gets its hospital after residents stave off a challenge from HCA.
By Julie S. Bettinger
When Destin Hospital closed more than seven years ago, Okaloosa County residents worried about healthcare. In an area where a 15-minute commute can take an hour or more during tourist season, quick access to healthcare became a real concern.
"When the tourists are here, and you're faced with having to go to Twin Cities (in Niceville) or Fort Walton Beach, that can really be a long haul," says Jim Rester, a real estate consultant.
Residents of south Okaloosa and Walton counties responded by trying to persuade a local developer to donate land for a new hospital and later supporting a $20-million fund-raising effort.
Rester, who was on the Destin Hospital board when its owner, HCA, shut down the facility because it was unprofitable, joined other business leaders who appealed to HCA to sell the building to another provider. When HCA refused, a delegation persuaded St. Joe Co. to donate $2.7 million in prime property on U.S. 98. Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola agreed to build a new facility.
But after the non-profit Sacred Heart applied for a certificate of need in 1999, the for-profit HCA, which owns the hospitals in nearby Fort Walton Beach and Niceville, contested on the grounds that the new facility would create unnecessary duplication of services.
Fearing that the challenge would delay the hospital's construction further, the Walton County Chamber of Commerce launched a petition asking HCA to drop its objection. More than 14,000 people signed on. HCA decided to withdraw its protest, and Sacred Heart broke ground on the 50-bed hospital in May.
The $40-million Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast, located on 34 acres just east of Sandestin, is scheduled for completion next December. It will employ 200 to 250 and will have a medical office building adjoining it. Meanwhile, the hospital launched AirHeart 1, an emergency helicopter service, in November to supplement emergency transport.
To date, Sacred Heart Foundation has raised about $7 million of the $20 million needed. The majority has come from wealthy residents who have experienced delays in receiving healthcare and from $100-a-plate fund-raisers, says fund-raising coordinator Sheryl Johnston. "It really does take a community to build a hospital."
Julie Bettinger can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the News
Carabelle -- Franklin County will get its first 18-hole golf course in spring 2003. Besides the public course, the 525-home St. James Bay community will also have retail and commercial office space.
Destin -- By the time his eight-day, four-wall-and-roof mural on Mid-Bay Marina was completed, the artist Wyland had used 1,000 gallons of paint. The project was his 88th and second-largest "Whaling Wall" at 1,488 feet long and 60 feet high. Wyland painted an American flag on the 2-acre roof to thank pilots flying overhead from military bases.
Midway -- Despite protests from environmentalists, Peavy & Son Construction received the final go-ahead to build an asphalt plant in Midway Business Park, less than two miles from the Ochlockonee River.
Panhandle -- Florida A&M University received $2.5 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish an environmental sciences center. FAMU plans to establish a marine science and aquaculture center in Apalachicola.
Pensacola -- Wayne Dalton Corp., one of the world's leading garage-door manufacturers, announced a $10-million, 81,000-sq.-ft. expansion of its Pensacola plant. The Mount Hope, Ohio-based company will add 50 jobs at its facility in Ellyson Industrial Park.
For the first time in its 112-year history, the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce appointed a female president and CEO. Evon Emerson, who founded a management consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning, leadership and team development, had been interim president since Doug Kinsinger's departure in early July.
Port St. Joe -- To secure a valuable freshwater source, the city of Port St. Joe purchased a 17-mile-long canal for $700,000 from Smurfit-Stone Container Co. The majority of the money came from grants, but the city financed $168,000.
St. George Island -- Trouble is brewing over rights to a four-mile stretch of beachfront on St. George Island. A Jacksonville investor and Baptist minister, Wilford McCormick, is trying to prove he owns the land between the high-tide mark and the back property lines of 248 homes and 17 lots, currently considered public access. McCormick sued the county, claiming the land was deeded to him by the original owner to pay back a loan. Franklin County officials say the land was "dedicated" to the county with the island's original plat lines drawn in 1952 and 1956. The two sides will settle the matter in court.
St. Theresa Beach -- Arvida, a unit of St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE), plans to create SummerCamp, a beachfront vacation community in southeastern Franklin County. Located on about 650 acres at the intersection of U.S. 98 and 319, SummerCamp is being designed as a "family retreat and gathering place on the Gulf of Mexico."
Tallahassee -- Radiology Associates has broken ground on a $7.4-million, state-of-the-art radiology complex and women's imaging center. The 56,888-sq.-ft. complex will allow the group to double its capacity and reduce the waiting time for mammograms.
Tallahassee's regional medical center has balked at signing an agreement to become a clinical campus partner for Florida State University's new medical school to train its third- and fourth-year students. Tallahassee Memorial Hospital wants more liability coverage and additional reimbursement for related operating and capital costs. Meanwhile, FSU is working out training agreements with hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices in other parts of the state.
The Solution 6 Group North America broke ground on a $4-million, 33,000-sq.-ft. facility. The company, which sells legal and accounting software and employs 150 locally, is based in Sydney, Australia.