BayCare spends $326 million to move South Florida Baptist to Plant City

PLANT CITY — South Florida Baptist Hospital is running out of real estate.

After 70 years, the hospital at 301 N. Alexander St. is still in operation, but a brand new facility is being built four miles east of East Sam Allen Road and North Park Road.

Since its opening in 1953, South Florida Baptist Hospital has seen 12 major additions and renovations. The growth of the local community caused the hospital to continue to expand without much physical space.

“We were looking to expand, but we didn’t have the capacity to build a tower or expand locally. The hospital is landlocked,” hospital president Karen Kerr said. “We would be dealing with an aging infrastructure.”

According to Kerr, the hospital considered a major on-site construction project that would have taken seven years and disrupted day-to-day operations before settling on a replacement facility.

The $326 million project began in October and is expected to be completed in early 2024. BayCare Health System, an umbrella group for 15 Florida hospitals across four counties, including South Florida Baptist, is footing the bill. BayCare also operates hospitals in Winter Haven and Bartow.

South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City is moving.  “We were looking to expand, but we didn't have the capacity to build a tower or expand locally.  The hospital is landlocked,” hospital president Karen Kerr said.

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The current hospital measures 250,000 square feet, according to information provided by BayCare. The future location will double that to 420,000 square feet and have six floors. One of the biggest differences is the inclusion of private hospital rooms. Many rooms at South Florida Baptist Hospital are shared spaces, but all future hospital rooms (146 in total) will be private.

If necessary, the hospital will have space for 30 additional inpatient and observation rooms.

The location will include 26 intensive care beds, a 30-bed urgent care department, cardiac catheterization rooms, an eight-bed surgery center and an OBGYN, labor and delivery center.

“It’s important for us to be able to provide top-notch care to help our patients, and essentially we’ll be able to do that at our new facility,” Kerr said. “The hospital grows with the community.”

The next Plant City hospital will have technology comparable to BayCare’s latest facility, BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel. The Wesley Chapel facility was completed earlier this year.

BayCare estimates the new location will employ 800 workers and more than 250 physicians.

“We will base our hiring needs on the average daily patient count at the time,” Kerr said.

Karen Kerr, president of South Florida Baptist, said the project is expected to be completed in early 2024.

Additionally, the hospital is constructing an 85,000 square foot medical office building. The building will have three floors, including spaces for physician and administrative offices as well as laboratory, imaging, adult rehabilitation, a wound and hyperbaric center and an infusion center.

Aside from a months-long delay due to COVID-19-related staffing shortages, Michigan-based construction major Barton Malow reported on time with the 2024 schedule. The land that South Florida Baptist will occupy was once an agricultural site.

“Parts of it were an agricultural site, and half of the property had already been annexed to the city and zoned commercial,” Kerr told the Ledger.

What will happen to the location of the former South Florida Baptist Hospital?

“We don’t know at this time,” Kerr said.

Regardless, South Florida Baptist said it would not operate two facilities simultaneously.

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