Expansion plans are in the works for HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital
Expansion plans are in the works for HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital, which would offer those living and working in the Treasure Coast even more services than those available at the campus on Tiffany Avenue. A $72 million expansion of its north tower has been approved with the hospital looking toward an $8 million renovation of its behavioral health unit. HCA FLORIDA ST. LUCIE HOSPITAL PHOTOS

Port St. Lucie hospitals provide growing list of healthcare services


Corey Lovelace is the CEO of HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital
Corey Lovelace is the CEO of HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital, a 222-bed acute care facility east of U.S. 1 in Port St. Lucie.

Currently, those facing a medical emergency in the city of Port St. Lucie have two choices: the for-profit HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital off U.S. 1 or the nonprofit Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, off I-95’s Exit 118.

By the end of 2024, Port St. Lucie may have a third option: for-profit Tenet Healthcare’s Community of Caring Hospital. The city council approved a site plan for the 181,000-square-foot facility near Becker Road and Florida’s Turnpike in May of 2022. Plans include a 24-hour emergency room, 24 critical care units, 30 general care rooms, a helicopter pad, labs, and a 60,000-square-foot medical office building. 

As the 54-bed hospital is still in the planning phases, for now we shall focus on the two existing hospitals: HCA Florida St. Lucie and Cleveland Clinic Tradition. While these hospitals offer a slew of similar services, each has its own strengths.

HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital CEO Corey Lovelace and Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital Senior Director of Nursing Lori Matich spoke recently about why Port St. Lucie residents should feel confident in their local hospitals and in the emergency medical care available now — and into the future.


Ribbon cutting ceremony
Lovelace says one of the favorite parts of his job is attending events with his colleagues and co-workers as it adds to the sense of camaraderie and team building. HCA FLORIDA ST. LUCIE HOSPITAL

HCA Florida St. Lucie is a 222-bed acute care hospital that serves roughly 70,000 patients annually, between its main 24-hour emergency room and free-standing emergency department at Darwin Square Center. “We have approximately 14,000 admissions and 7,000 surgeries a year,” Lovelace says. “We’ve seen a lot of growth year-over-year.” In fact, its admissions are up more than 9%, this year-to-date, with ER visits up by more than 8%. “That’s definitely a little above average,” Lovelace says. “Part of it, I will admit, is growth and the demand for health services, as the city has grown so much.

“One of the things I wanted to mention is we’re celebrating our 40th year,” Lovelace adds. “We’ve been here since 1983 on the Treasure Coast, at St. Lucie Hospital. We’re one of the largest employers on the Treasure Coast and one of the largest taxpaying entities. We pay property taxes, and local and county taxes — many of the nonprofit hospitals don’t do that — so we give back to the local police department, the fire department, the school system. That’s something I’m very proud of.”

As Port St. Lucie has developed, so has the hospital’s reputation as “a premier destination for orthopedic spine surgery,” he says, noting that patients from all over North America — including Canada — travel there for surgery. Other key services include its gastroenterology, general surgery, wound care, oncology, pediatrics and occupational medicine departments. It also provides advanced colorectal surgery; a gynecological and birthing center, which did about 1,800 deliveries this year; and a cardio/catheterization lab, which cares for stroke and neurological patients. Patients needing more intensive care are transferred to HCA sister facility Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce.


The two areas where HCA really stands out, says Lovelace, “are our technology and our culture. Other hospitals might have some robotic technology, but we have an all-encompassing array of four robots.” While not wanting to name the robots, he did drop “DaVinci,” into the conversation. The robots assist with minimally invasive general surgery, including colorectal; advanced procedures, including gynecologic oncology and urogynecology; and enhanced orthopedic surgeries. The hospital also recently added robot technology for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia. 

“All this technology helps with increased efficiency and accuracy, better outcomes, decreased hospital stays and shortened recovery times,” says Lovelace. “Where I think we stand out even more — and what I think is more important — is our culture. It’s really unique here.” HCA St. Lucie just received the Pathway to Excellence Designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an honor few hospitals in the country receive.

HCA branched out two years ago, buying MD Now Urgent Care walk-in clinics — about 60 in total. “It’s definitely a network integration strategy for us. If people need to seek more acute services, they’ll go to an urgent-care clinic and then they can go directly to our [emergency department], seamlessly,” says Lovelace. “MD Now had such a strong brand in Florida.”

According to Lovelace, “HCA has invested a lot and will continue to invest” in Port St. Lucie, with approximately $100 million in projects, underway or planned, during the next few years.

That includes starting its own ambulance service. Currently, HCA partners with multiple private ambulance companies. But within the next few years, HCA ambulances will be transporting patients to Lawnwood in Fort Pierce, Raulerson in Okeechobee, Highlands in Sebring and HCA in Port St. Lucie. In March, HCA got the go-ahead for a $72 million expansion of its north tower; in a few years, its behavioral health unit is earmarked for an $8 million facelift.

Standing in the back row, wearing glasses, is Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital Senior Director of Nursing Lori Matich, who says while she is proud of the hospital’s award-winning stroke center, her pride and joy is her staff. CLEVELAND CLINIC TRADITION HOSPITAL PHOTOS


Tradition Hospital is among Cleveland Clinic’s five-hospital system in the state of Florida, with other locations in Martin North, Martin South, Indian River County and Weston.

Port St. Lucie residents may also seek emergency medical care at Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, one of five hospitals in the Cleveland Clinic Florida system, which includes Martin North, Martin South, Indian River Hospital and Cleveland Clinic Weston. It carries the sway of its namesake in Ohio, where the first Cleveland Clinic was founded in 1921. The nonprofit, multi-specialty, academic medical center blends clinical and hospital care with research and education. 

Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital has a 24-hour ER plus general medical care; surgical care; neurology, neurosurgery and neuro-intervention care; and colorectal surgery. It specializes in maternity care, earning recognition from U.S. News as a “high performing hospital.” 

“We have attracted so much great talent to the area,” Matich says. “We’re in touch with our local nursing program and constantly recruiting with hiring, doing events and meeting students. We’ve had our staffing challenges, and recovered from that.”

Matich proudly notes that one of Tradition Hospital’s great strengths is its standing as the “only comprehensive certified stroke center on the Treasure Coast in 2023. That was a great achievement — even greater than working through the pandemic.”

In the past decade, more than 140,000 patients have been treated at Tradition Hospital, with 47,000 surgeries performed, 342,000 ER visits made, and 15,000 babies delivered. The hospital’s medical professionals perform myriad procedures, including cardiac interventions such as Mitraclip [Mitral Regurgitation Treatment Option], Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement [TAVR] and Watchman [for AFib stroke risk reduction], along with interventional radiology; colorectal surgery; gynecology and obstetrics; maternal-fetal medicine; orthopedics and sports medicine; neurosurgery and neuro intervention.

Tradition Health Park
Port St. Lucie residents in need of additional healthcare services can visit Tradition Health Park, which is affiliated with Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital.


Being able to lean on the other Cleveland Clinics strengthens Tradition Hospital’s appeal, noted Matich. “We don’t do transplants here, but Weston does. Amongst our three hospitals, Tradition does neuroscience and colorectal; and South Hospital does orthopedics and cancer; and cardiothoracic is at North Hospital.”

Cleveland Clinic Florida has its own ambulance transport system “to get patients to where they need to go. Our mission is to provide high-quality care to our patients. And our revenue, for lack of a better word, is put back into providing that. Do we want to make money? Of course. But that money is used to provide the best of care and to continue to grow and reach as many patients as we can.”

That’s reflected in investments like Cleveland Clinic’s 2020 Florida Research and Innovation Center across from Tradition Hospital. The 107,000-square-foot space is devoted to studying diseases, therapies and new uses for bioinformatics. 

Matich says she believes Tradition Hospital will keep growing with the community, providing programs like Care at Home, which allows patients to receive vital nursing care at home. “I’m super excited,” she says, adding hospital research must also keep driving forward.

HCA’s CEO Lovelace, meanwhile, says “competition is a great thing for patients. It pushes both the Cleveland Clinic and our system to continue to raise the bar.” He added “two systems are enough … I don’t think we need another competitor. I will say we do need to continue to grow our capabilities, our specialists and capacities, so individuals with certain conditions don’t have to drive out of our communities. But yes, I am very happy with what we are able to provide.”

Matich agreed.

“There are plenty of patients in St. Lucie County,” she points out, “more than enough patients for all of us. We need to work together and support the community as a whole.” 

See the original article in print publication

Jan. 7, 2024

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