Orlando Health Brings Its Reputation, Quality Health Care to Polk County
“When we first announced, we really didn’t have complete market data,” said Orlando Health CEO Jamal Hakim, the doctor who oversees the daily operations and management of all Orlando Health hospitals and their patient care. “We knew a presence was necessary. As we got our fingers into things there, it was apparent the growth in the demographics is more than all of us really thought. It’s one of the hottest growth markets in Florida and the country, and we realized the opportunity.”
Hakim said Polk County residents are welcoming Orlando Health, which adds another option in health care.
“Orlando Health has a reputation of being a place for high-end and high-quality health care. Our reputation goes with us,” Hakim said. “We don’t know how far our reputation goes beyond our market until we get in there and start testing. As we started talking to physicians and front-line consumers, it became apparent they’d love to have an Orlando Health presence there – it’s like having a Cleveland Clinic move in. Whatever it is, if it has an Orlando Health label, it’s a cut above.”
The not-for-profit health-care organization, founded more than 100 years ago, has its headquarters in Orlando. With $8 billion in assets, it serves the southeastern United States, including such hospitals as Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Orlando Regional Medical Center and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. More than 4,200 doctors have privileges across the Orlando Health system, which employs more than 23,000 people. The organization served more than 160,000 inpatients and nearly 3.6 million outpatients in fiscal year 2021. That year, its economic impact was estimated to be $648 million in total value to the communities it serves in the form of charity care, community benefit programs and services, community building activities and more.
The Planned Hospital
The seven-story Orlando Health Lakeland Highlands Hospital will be built on 80 acres south of the Polk Parkway at Lakeland Highlands Road and the Winter Lake Extension Road. Pre-construction work is underway, and construction will begin in 2023 with an expected opening in 2026. The first phase will contain 302 inpatient beds – not the 136 initially announced — and 28 Emergency Department beds. It will also feature nearly 30 ICU/progressive care rooms, 16 patient rooms to support a women’s birthing program, space for a future neonatal intensive care unit, imaging, labs, a pharmacy, dining and a gift shop.
The area surrounding the hospital could eventually include an ambulatory surgical center, medical office space, retail space and a hotel.
“We bought a big piece of land to do whatever we want,” Hakim said. Orlando Health has the capital to build, he said, but “we have to build a business plan around each one of these. That’s not intact yet. You won’t see just a hospital go up. It’s more like: What’s going to come first – an office building, surgery center, hotel? Each one depends on the partner we choose and the business plan around it. But the site will fill in.”
As primary care doctors become more in demand and a nursing shortage looms, Hakim doesn’t foresee problems hiring at the new hospital. “We have the same concerns as we have for our current facilities. We just opened a hospital in Horizon West (in Winter Garden) and spent two years recruiting. We put out national ads. People want to come to Florida, to a new hospital, a new program. It’s a fresh start; maybe they have family here.”
It’s also a big organization that has weathered such storms.
“We have an enormous primary care group – one of the largest in the state,” he said, including 200 physicians in Central Florida. “People want to be part of that infrastructure. People know they can come in and practice medicine and the health system will take care of everything else – billing, human resources, hiring. All that headache is removed from them. They just have to do their jobs. It’s a lot easier to join a big system than start your own shop.”
Hakin said Orlando Health will partner with existing primary care groups rather than compete with them. “We’d rather support them. How can we help you recruit using our name and our opportunities? We think you can benefit from putting a clinic here – we’ve done all the research. We can help with your strategy.”
Providing Quality Care
Hakim said the most important thing about providing health care in a community is guaranteeing patients that they will be well taken care of – no matter where they seek treatment.
“No matter what door you enter, you will get the same promise for great care. That’s what we try to live up to. Whether it’s a hospital Emergency Room, a primary care facility, a cardiac unit — whatever it is, with every door you enter, you’re going to know you entered Orlando Health because of how it feels and how they treat you, and you feel like they are trying to be excellent.”