Fishermen’s field hospital opened Sept. 26

Fishermen's Hospital committed to rebuilding in Marathon.

A temporary field hospital is open in Fishermen’s parking lot in Marathon.


Fishermen’s Hospital will be rebuilt, representatives say.


That’s the message from Baptist Health South Florida about Fishermen’s Hospital in Marathon. Whether that means the structure will be demolished, or thoroughly renovated, or possibly relocated, there will be permanent and consistent medical care available to the residents of the Middle Keys.


“I believe that Baptist Health will stay in Marathon in one form or another,” said Jay Hershoff, chairman of the board for Fishermen’s and Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, both nonprofit hospitals under the Baptist Health umbrella. “Baptist will always do the right thing. Whatever happens, there will be health care for sure in Marathon.”


The damage to the hospital structure came just two months months after Baptist signed papers to take over the management of the community hospital, which had outsourced operations to a for-profit firm. The main structure has been locked tight since Hurricane Irma hit the Keys on Sept. 10.


What’s open now is a mobile hospital on loan from North Carolina. It is a five-bed emergency department, six-bed in-patient department, diagnostic equipment and a lab. Rick Freeburg, chief executive officer of both Fishermen’s and Mariners, said the field hospital has X-ray technology already, and a mobile CT unit is on the way. Coming soon: phones, respiratory services and a return to digital patient records.


“For right now, we’re doing it the old-fashioned way — on paper,” he said.


Baptist South is awaiting the results of a thorough building inspection. Freeburg said the hospital has multiple roof leaks that resulted in puddles forming on the floor; the rumor about the fire sprinklers coming on at Fishermen’s Hospital and staying on is 100 percent false. The other concern is air quality. Mold and mildew is good for neither the patients nor employees.


“We had about 90 employees show up at the company meeting on Sept. 21,” said Freeburg of the meeting to address the hospital’s immediate future. Freeburg said the hospital would re-employ as many as possible, as soon as possible. Baptist South has also encouraged them to seek transfer opportunities at the other Baptist hospitals in South Florida.


“We’re committed to rebuilding the hospital,” Freeburg said. “We’re not bailing. We’re not leaving.”

Sara Matthis
Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.