On the morning of Oct. 4, surgeon Derek Papp glided out of the glass doors of the sparkling new Fishermen’s Hospital entrance to chat with hospital CEO Drew Grossman on the sidewalk outside. He had just completed the first surgeries performed at the new facility, post-Irma rebuild: two shoulder arthroscopies, including a rotator cuff repair and a rotator cuff augmentation.

“They were successful,” Papp said about the procedures. He was smiling and cool as a cucumber, as confident and unflustered as George Clooney in an episode of ER. He gave final instructions to his patient, who was being wheeled outside to a waiting car curbside and gently assisted inside.

The glossy facade of a new facility. A state-of-the-art operating suite. The unharried doctor. This new reality for Fishermen’s Hospital was a mere daydream after Irma in 2017, when the facility was crammed into trailers after its destruction. And now, the sky is the limit for what the new building can provide for Keys locals.

“People know we’re here, but now they can truly come here for ER and outpatient surgeries,” said Grossman. “We’re here to stay. Our goals are more recruitment, more surgeons and physicians. It’s really about the services we can provide here to prevent the community from going to the mainland.”

The CEO pointed out that the old Marathon library building next door will be turned into a medical arts complex for physician’s offices.

“One of the biggest challenges is recruitment, from a staffing standpoint,” Grossman said. “Living in the Keys is expensive. You can sell the palm trees and sea life, but there’s a price to pay.”

Papp is currently the director of the Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute, and he comes down to perform surgeries at Mariners and now at Fishermen’s. And more procedures are scheduled: He has two knee scopes planned at Fishermen’s at the end of the month.

The surgeon discussed that he was able to use up-to-date techniques in Fishermen’s brand-new operating suite.

“The rotator cuff augmentation has been in vogue for the past five years or so,” he said. “It’s pretty new technology. We want to be able to take care of the people of the Middle Keys and south so they don’t have to go too far. Fishermen’s Hospital has a lot of great people who have worked hard to make this happen.”

In addition to the operating suite, the new 37,330-square-foot Fishermen’s Community Hospital now provides specialized services such as 24/7 emergency care with telestroke services to give stroke patients immediate access to board-certified neurologists, an on-site helipad, six inpatient beds, including two intensive care beds with 24/7 monitoring, nine emergency department beds, five additional recovery beds, diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation and laboratory services. In addition, Fishermen’s is now home to the southernmost branch of Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health, providing patients with high-quality oncology care close to home.

Fishermen’s Community Hospital has been caring for the Florida Keys community since 1962. In July, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the hospital’s reopening, Grossman said, “Baptist Health is heavily investing in communities throughout South Florida to ensure access to high-quality care for all who need it. This new facility is an extension of our commitment to providing the best healthcare to all residents and visitors in the Keys.”

The enhanced stroke services is a particular coup for local residents, considering that the American Stroke Association lists stroke as the number five cause of death in the United States. To increase survival and limit long-term effects of a stroke, a patient has up to 4.5 hours from the onset of symptoms to receive intravenous alteplase. A ride sitting in traffic to a Miami facility or even a helicopter lift may take time away from critical care.

With the new technology, as soon as a patient with stroke symptoms enters the Fishermen’s emergency department, the attending team issues a stroke alert and connects with an on-call neurologist at Miami Neuroscience Institute. The patient’s diagnostic imaging results are promptly sent to the consulting physician for review. 

But hey, let’s not forget the fountain with changing-color lights, the focal point outside the new building — and a long way from the sight of a group of trailers surrounded by debris, which the property had a few years ago.

Grossman noted that the new fountain with the pineapple sculpture will have different colored lights to celebrate different occasions. For example, the water will be pink for October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. And it was recently orange for World Patient Safety Day.

Grossman pointed at the fountain and smiled. “I want people to drive by and look at the fountain and say, ‘What color is it today?’”

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Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.