By the fall of 2013, we had grown to the point where our hospitals were almost always full. Therefore, at a meeting that September of the UF Health Shands board of directors, we discussed the possibility of building a new hospital wing to accommodate growth and create modern space that would help us deliver on the vision of achieving significant national stature as an academic health center.
Of course there were risks to building such a hospital tower, mainly centered on the dark clouds and uncertainties that perennially seem to affect the health care landscape.
We, however, took a different view. Yes, there was risk associated with building a new hospital only to find that the health care world had changed in a manner that would challenge our financial sustainability. But, we argued, there was a much greater risk of not expanding: Indeed, could we accommodate growth and achieve our vision as an academic health center of the highest order through piece-by-piece renovation of our existing infrastructure without allowing for growth?
At a retreat of our board and faculty on this topic, we came down on the side of growth. A more ambitious plan emerged based on patient needs: We decided to build two new hospital towers – one for neuromedicine (neurology and neurosurgery) and one for heart and vascular care (cardiology, cardiac and thoracic surgery, and vascular surgery).
In designing the new hospitals, we first assessed the needs of our patients, and then worked with the architects to build spaces that fulfilled these needs.
Physicians, architects, nurses, engineers, administrators, contractors, equipment specialists and staff from diverse areas of specialization focused on the goal of designing an environment that supports sophisticated technology and outstanding medical practice, along with soothing spaces where our patients can heal. Team members representing heart and vascular care, neurology, neurosurgery, operating rooms, intensive care units, acute care units, patient advocacy, radiology, maintenance and every other group that is required to operate a modern academic health center were assembled to work on this project.
Overall, more than 300 companies and 8,000 people worked on the design and construction of these new hospitals during the 4 1/2-year duration of this project.