Longtime speculation became reality Tuesday when it was announced that the parent company of The Villages Regional Hospital is being sold.
University of Florida Health announced the acquisition of Central Florida Health (CFH), which also includes Leesburg Regional Medical Center. The facilities will be renamed UF Health The Villages Hospital and UF Health Leesburg Hospital, according to a news release from UF Health.
It’s unclear how the acquisition will affect other properties owned by Central Florida Health – the TVRH Rehabilitation Hospital located inside the Villages hospital’s North Tower, an urgent care located on the Leesburg hospital’s campus, Alliance Labs and LRMC Senior Behavioral Health Center.
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The acquisition of the two local hospitals provides UF Health with 660 acute care beds in the tri-county area. The mega-healthcare organization already owns the world-renowned UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and UF Health Jacksonville – both highly regarded level one trauma centers.
Many Villagers and area residents already are familiar with Shands and have received advanced care there, including those who have been flown to the Gainesville facility via ShandsCair helicopters after being critically injured in vehicle crashes or suffering from medical conditions like debilitating strokes.
The purchase of CFH didn’t come as a surprise, largely because UF Health already had its fingers in the community through a partnership with the hospitals’ not-for-profit owner that was announced in February 2018. Under that agreement, the two providers promised to “collaborate” on new health initiatives to expand access to leading-edge patient-care programs and clinical studies for tri-county residents.
The two entities vowed to explore the creation of primary care physician training opportunities at both hospitals. The demand for primary care doctors remains on the rise as The Villages continues to build new homes at breakneck speed in the Villages of Southern Oaks portion of the community while eyeing similar growth in Leesburg.
Tuesday’s announcement also comes four days after The Villages unveiled a separate pact with UF Health. That agreement promised “exclusive talks” between the sprawling retirement community and UF Health to “transform” regional healthcare, including the creation of a comprehensive health care campus and a new general acute-care hospital in the community.
That agreement caught many area residents and medical professionals off guard and led to rampant speculation about the out-of-town healthcare provider also acquiring the primary-care-driven Villages Health system, which also includes specialists who will be housed in the new Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood on State Road 44 when it opens in the coming year.
The acquisition also includes CFH’s new 24-hour freestanding emergency room that’s being built on State Road 44 in Wildwood, not far from The Villages Health’s new specialty care building and the outpatient-room-providing Brownwood Hotel & Spa. That ER is expected to open sometime in January, according to The Villages Regional Hospital’s website.
Tuesday’s release from UF Health promises that the CFH acquisition will “strengthen and improve” the availability of high-quality, efficient and affordable health care for tri-county residents. It also says that the construction of a new acute-care hospital in association with The Villages “will be considered,” as well as facility improvements and new equipment and technologies.
Dr. David Nelson, who serves as president of UF Health and senior vice president for health affairs at the University of Florida, said his organization is prepared to expand healthcare options for tri-county residents.
“We are looking forward to working with community physicians who practice at the hospitals and others on the healthcare team to serve the needs of the community and bring the latest healthcare advances to the region,” he said.
Don Henderson, president and CEO of CFH, touted UF Health for being at the forefront of a variety of clinical and research advances.
“We’re looking forward to being able to offer additional depth and new alternatives for local residents requiring specialized care in areas where there is a growing community need, while also ensuring they are able to easily obtain primary care,” he said.
Ed Jimenez, who serves as CEO of UF Health Shands, agreed.
“The patient is at the center of everything we do,” he said. “We are excited about maximizing treatment options, improving coordination of care, offering the latest medical breakthroughs and exploring new opportunities related to our community service, medical education and research activities.”
Jimenez added that the overall goal is to create a “national model” for healthier communities promoting healthier living throughout the region. Part of that goal in The Villages is to create “America’s Healthiest Hometown” – the same goal The Villages Developer announced in 2013 in a venture with the University of South Florida that failed 18 months later. In that agreement, USF Health had committed to provide specialists working alongside Villages Health primary care doctors and extensive research opportunities but the organization pulled out after losing millions of dollars on the venture.