Lee Memorial Health System announced last week it has filed a letter of intent with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to build up to an 80-bed hospital on Coconut Road to serve the residents of Bonita Springs and Estero.
The proposed hospital will be built on 33 acres owned by the health system, located just south of Coconut Point mall and adjacent to the Bonita Community Health Center.
"We purchased the land during the boom years with the intent of one day building a hospital on it, but the economic downturn slowed those plans," says Jim Nathan, president of Lee Memorial Health System. "When HMA revealed plans to move Lehigh Regional Medical Center out of Lehigh Acres and to the Alico Road corridor, we knew we needed to step up our timetable as such a project off Alico could possibly impact the ability of the citizens of the southern part of Lee County from getting a hospital for many more years. We believe this site located on the Estero-Bonita border is the best alternative for a hospital to serve the growing portions of southern Lee County."
Locating the new hospital in the geographic area of Bonita Springs/Estero will provide a balanced distribution of hospital beds throughout Southwest Florida. The health system intends to de-license some unused beds at Lee Memorial Hospital on Cleveland Avenue as part of this application.
To prevent unnecessary duplication of health care services, which can drive up costs, hospitals must be issued a Certificate of Need (CON) before gaining approval to relocate beds from an existing hospital or to move a hospital more than one mile from its existing site. When competing applications are received, AHCA reviews the applications and selects the best proposal. The next steps in the CON process include the submittal of a preliminary application, which is due in early March, and the submittal of the full application in early April.
Locating the hospital on this site has the added advantage of nearby medical services. Also in this same area, Lee Memorial Health System operates the Bonita Springs Community Health Center in a joint venture with NCH Healthcare. It offers a wide spectrum of health services, including urgent care, physician offices, diagnostic testing and same day surgery.
"We have a tremendous amount of work to do in planning and development," says Nathan. "We look forward to partnering with the local community as we move forward with our long standing plans to build a hospital in the Bonita-Estero area."