For months, the Middle Keys have been waiting to find out what Baptist Health South Florida’s plans are for Fishermen’s Hospital, badly damaged by Hurricane Irma a little more than two months after the parent company purchased the community hospital in Marathon.

But the question was whether it would be renovated, or rebuilt. On Monday, Baptist Health announced it would start from scratch.

According to a press release, construction of the $40 million facility is anticipated to begin during the first half of 2019, with a goal of raising $15 million of that total through philanthropy.

“This plan reflects our vision for improving and investing in the health of our communities with an emphasis on compassion,” said Baptist Health South Florida President and CEO Brian E. Keeley. “We look forward to continuing to implement that vision as we construct a new, state-of-the-art facility to serve the Middle Keys community.”

Sixteen days after the storm passed, Fishermen’s Hospital opened with a field hospital, a “mash” unit, in the parking lot of its facility. It is a five-bed emergency department, six-bed in-patient department, diagnostic equipment and a lab. On Dec. 15, the hospital approached the Monroe County Board of Commissioners about space at the Marathon airport to erect a modular hospital, a transition step during construction of the new facility. However, Baptist Health has decided to put the modular hospital on the southwest corner of the hospital parking lot, nearest the library, for reasons that were not disclosed. The modular hospital is estimated to cost $3 million. Once it’s up and running, the field hospital will be dismantled.

According to the press release, the custom-designed modular hospital will have expanded capabilities and staffing that will remain in place until the entirely new facility opens.

The new hospital is expected to have less than 25 beds, a 24/7 emergency room, inpatient and outpatient surgery, diagnostic imaging, lab testing, and physical and occupational therapy. The footprint of the new building will be about half of what it is now.

“The footprint of the old building was something like 76,000 square feet,” said Fishermen’s Community Hospital and Mariners Hospital CEO Rick Freeburg. “The new one will be about 40,000 square feet, and a more efficient use of space.” Freeburg said it would be built to Category 5 standards and feature LEED-certified construction, as is typical of all Baptist Health’s new construction.

Baptist Health Foundation – the fundraising division of Baptist Health South Florida – will launch a campaign to achieve the philanthropic goal of $15 million for Fishermen’s.

“Fishermen’s Community Hospital Foundation has a long history of generous philanthropy and we will be looking to the community again,” said Wendy Gentes, director of Development at Baptist Health South Florida. She said the Foundation would also be approaching sources outside of the community, exploring grant possibilities and engaging with partners on the mainland who support hurricane rebuilding relief. The campaign will begin with a fundraiser this weekend at a private residence in Marathon and continue on March 15 with another party at The Turtle Hospital. The parties give hospital officials a chance to connect with possible donors.

“People need to know what they are investing in, we need these conversations about health care in our community,” Gentes said, adding that other campaigns and events will solicit other types of help. “Every penny makes a difference.”

Freeburg said the entire undertaking from field hospital to modular hospital to new construction is an expensive undertaking.

“We are asking the community to help us come up with the funds we are going to need, to build the hospital we know the community wants,” Freeburg said.

Individuals interested in making a difference through the “Our Community, Your Hospital” campaign are encouraged to contact Wendy Reilly Gentes, [email protected], 305-522-0411, or Kim E. Gregory, [email protected], 305-393-5720.

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