The latest plans for a new Lakeland Regional Health building along South Florida Avenue are part of an ongoing effort to meet the population’s growing needs for access to medical services, according to LRH CEO Danielle Drummond.
“We believe this location on South Florida Avenue will help us continue to grow and expand easy access to our high-quality healthcare services,” she said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
“We are obviously a leader in providing health care services in Lakeland and throughout Polk County, especially when it comes to emergency medicine. So part of the strategy is really to make sure that we can continue to develop the access points to make them more convenient for those looking to come to us for these services,” Drummond said.
“With growth in the South Lakeland area, we believe this location on South Florida Avenue would be convenient for residents,” she said.
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On Wednesday, LHR announced it has plans for an additional location, this time in South Lakeland on a 5.6-acre property at 5610 S. Florida Ave.
Access to care is a big part of the health system’s five-year plan as well as optimizing patient care in current locations, Drummond said.
The health system has several other new facilities already underway, including the 20-acre Lakeland Regional Health Site along Interstate 4 at Kathleen Road. This location will include primary and specialty care, as well as clinical space for future post-graduate medical residents slated to open next year.
The health system also plans to develop 100 acres it purchased on US 98 south of County Road 540A.
Part of Lakeland Regional Health’s growth and development plan includes expanding urgent care and other medical services to these new locations throughout the region, LHR said.
“Recognizing our expertise in urgent care as one of the busiest single-site emergency departments in the country, as well as the tremendous growth in our region, Lakeland Regional Health is working to provide better access to high quality emergency care,” said Tim Regan. , MD, President/Chief Medical Officer of Lakeland Regional Health in a press release.
“These new proposed locations will allow us to make emergency care more convenient throughout the community,” he said.
The main campus of the not-for-profit, community-based Lakeland Regional Health System was ranked the second-busiest emergency department in the United States for 2021 with 190,581 emergency department visits, according to a report in the May issue of Becker’s Hospital Review.
LHR once held the top spot in 2018 with 210,020 ER visits. Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas had the most emergency room trips in 2021 with 210,152, according to the report.
The new additions to the Polk County health system are in addition to the Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Wellness, which LRH is scheduled to open in late August.
The organization’s graduate medical education program is expected to give patients better access to doctors and healthcare providers, LHR said. The first medical residents will arrive next year and, once fully operational, the GME program expects to support 150-200 medical residents.
“It will allow us to continue to meet our goals for the quality of care that we provide as an organization,” Drummond said, “but it will also allow these physicians to open up this access to patients who otherwise would not have may not have good access to health care in the community.
“We also hope that once they have spent time with our organization in our community, they will choose to remain in practice here after their training is complete.”
While the South Florida Avenue facility would handle emergency services, the main campus would continue to serve current levels of patients – adults and children – and new facilities are planned throughout the county as the population is expected to increase.
LHR has the only trauma center within Polk County’s borders as well as outpatient services and doctor’s offices throughout the county, including offices in Lake Wales, Auburndale and Plant City.
Asked about competing private hospitals planning to open facilities around Lakeland, including HCA Healthcare, Drummond said LHR’s strategic goals “will allow us to continue to be successful as we look to the future.”
Lakeland Regional Health has served the metro area for more than 100 years and has a local board of directors made up of community leaders who anticipate community needs, she said.
Financial support comes from the Lakeland Regional Health Foundation, which was established as a non-profit organization in 1971 to support Lakeland Regional Health with 100% of its donations directed towards clinical programs, facilities and equipment used to care the patients.