Registered nurses Marisol Penaloza and Nancy Kaiser McKeegan talk electronic medical records on day two of the modular hospital being open. See story, below. KATIE ATKINS/Keys Weekly

A new chapter has begun for Baptist Health South Florida, which welcomed its first patient July 23 at the modular facility on the Fishermen’s Community Hospital grounds at MM 48.7 oceanside.

Gone are the tents that made up the temporary field hospital, which went up 16 days after Hurricane Irma destroyed the hospital Baptist had just bought. Currently, workers were seen hauling debris out of the old building and in the coming months it’ll be torn down to make way for a new 40,000 square-foot hospital. An architect has been hired for the $40 million project, according to Fishermen’s CEO Rick Freeburg. 

“We’re really excited to be open and out of the mash unit,” he said. “Next is the demolition, and we’re planning on that probably mid-August.” 

In the meantime, the four-part modular hospital that will serve patients for the next two years is almost ready for in-patient services. The emergency room, lab, pharmacy and respiratory services are up and running. Imaging services include X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and echocardiograms. The 8,000-square-foot modular hospital cost about $5 million.

The emergency and imaging services are up and running. In-patient care is expected to begin soon. KATIE ATKINS/Keys Weekly

Once the final two rooms are finished in the coming weeks, they will include four outpatient rooms, four inpatient rooms and a cafeteria.

“Right now, we’re strictly doing out-patient services, imaging and lab work. Hopefully within the next two weeks we’ll be able to keep some patients here if we need to,” Freeburg said. 

Marketing specialist Victoria Verdeja explained the four-day delay in between the tent hospital being removed and the opening of the modular hospital. On July 18 it was inspected by the fire marshal, who found the sprinkler system was not yet ready.

“The sprinklers in the modular facility required a very specialized installation. An expert flew in to make sure it was done properly,” Freeburg said. “While this took a bit of time, the safety and security of our patients and staff is our priority.  The fire marshal inspected the facility and gave us the clear to open on Monday at 7 a.m.  We are honored to be able to continue to care for the Middle Keys community.”

Construction of the new facility is anticipated to start in 2019, with a goal of raising $15 million through philanthropy. About $5.5 million has been raised so far. 

At the tent hospital, about 20 to 25 patients were treated daily. When Fishermen’s was fully operational, about 900 patients were treated per month. 

“We’re hoping to get back to that level,” Freeburg said. 

The new hospital will be slightly smaller than Baptist’s other Keys hospital, Mariners in Tavernier. 

A new taxing district in the Middle Keys will help make up for some of the $33,000 Baptist staff said it is losing each day. The tax, at .5 mills or less, will be levied to help pay for indigent care only for homeowners between MM 47 to 60. It includes Key Colony Beach and Duck Key. The Monroe County Commission will review the tax every year for ten years with the goal of raising $15 million.  

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