Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Boca Regional Hospital Breaking Ground on New Addition & More

We already are seeing a different Boca Raton Regional Hospital. We will see a very different one after the next six years.

On Wednesday at 3 p.m. comes groundbreaking for the Gloria Drummond Patient Tower. CEO Lincoln Mendez told me Monday that construction should be complete by the end of 2025.

Boca Regional has named the tower for the woman whose two children—Debbie and Randy Drummond—died of poisoning in 1962. Boca Raton had no hospital 60 years ago. By the time their parents got the children to Bethesda in Boynton Beach, it was too late.

Five years later, thanks in large part to Ms. Drummond, Boca Regional opened. She died in 2011. She surely would be proud of what has happened.

Already complete, as part of the hospital’s Keeping The Promise capital campaign, are the main parking garage and a new power plant. A structure across Meadows Road was demolished for a medical arts building and garage.

Obviously, though, the new tower will be the most visible and significant addition. It will have 200 beds. Another 237 will be in the existing tower whose renovation will follow construction of the Drummond tower. That work should be done in 2028. All rooms will be private.

Mendez said the pandemic did not affect any of the construction. If anything, he noted, the move to remote meetings allowed more regular discussions with architects. But because of the pandemic experience, Mendez said, the hospital is adding negative pressure rooms that can isolate patients with infectious diseases.

Getting it all done while maintaining normal operations is “all about planning,” Mendez said. Administrators issue regular construction schedule updates—and revisions. From the patients’ standpoint, “I don’t think anyone will see any disruption” during construction.

The new Boca Regional, which three years ago became part of Baptist Health South Florida, will offer enhanced marketing opportunities in the ultra-competitive regional health care market. In addition to the new towers, there will be new surgical centers, a new intensive care unit—“probably the biggest change,” Mendez said—and all of what the hospital calls its “center of excellence,” such as the Marcus Neuroscience Institute.

As Mendez puts its, the transformed campus “almost will market itself.” He envisions Boca Regional advertising not just north to Boynton Beach but beyond. “We see lot of opportunity throughout Palm Beach County.”

Boca Regional will look for more acquisitions, such as outpatient facilities. Mendez sees no conflict with Bethesda Hospital, which Baptist Health also owns. “We’re working with them on collaborative efforts now.”

Aside from competition, Mendez said Boca Regional’s other biggest challenge also is one that the entire industry faces: “personnel.” Florida has a shortage of staff nurses and therapists. Private companies poach nurses to travel from hospital to hospital. Nursing schools, such as the one at Florida Atlantic University, don’t have enough educators for higher enrollments.

But many hospital administrators happily would switch jobs with Mendez. The local fundraising base and help from Baptist Health will give the community a greatly enhanced civic and economic asset.

It’s worth noting that a failed, overly ambitious venture with FAU in the last decade put Boca Regional in financial peril and led to the hiring of former CEO Jerry Fedele. He turned things around. This time, the plan seems just ambitious enough.

Future of Boca Teeca uncertain

boca teeca
Boca Teeca site, courtesy of Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District

This week, the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District expects to receive a consultant’s report with recommendations from the public for the district-owned former Ocean Breeze golf course at Boca Teeca.

Erin Wright, the district’s board chairwoman, told me last week that the agency wants a broader view than what it normally hears. Golfers—who regularly speak at board meetings—want more than what the city is offering at the former Boca Country Club, Wright said. Boca Teeca residents “seem to want anything that doesn’t bring children.”

At one point, Ocean Breeze was to be the new municipal course. Then The Boca Raton donated Boca Country Club. That layout, though, doesn’t have the shorter, nine-hole course that was at Boca Municipal.

“Golf is not off the table” for Ocean Breeze, Wright said, “but we’re not doing an 18-hole course with another just a mile away,” meaning the now city-owned Boca Raton Golf and Racquet Club.

Wright most wants to hear “how the pandemic affected people and what they want from recreation.” She thinks that many people—especially parents like her of young children—will want more trails and “outdoor experiences.” If Boca Teeca resists, Wright said, “There’s more than Boca Teeca to this decision. The land doesn’t belong to them.” Ocean Breeze closed because so few Boca Teeca residents wanted to play golf.

I’ll have more when the report comes out.

Boca City Council to expand housing authority

As I had written, the Boca Raton City Council tonight will approve an expansion of the city’s housing authority board from five to seven members. Two members’ terms expire in November. That will mean a lot of potential turnover—assuming a lot of people apply—on a board that council members have complained doesn’t communicate adequately with residents of the Dixie Manor project and the city. Council members appoint the board.

Boca non-profit considered for revitalization

Several years ago, Boca Raton Realtor Mike Weppner started an effort to revitalize the area north of 20th Street, east of the Florida East Coast Railway and west of Federal Highway. On tonight’s city council agenda is an item to give Weppner’s non-profit nearly $16,000.

According to the staff memo, Friends of North Dixie would get that money to “evaluate possible changes and improvements.” Weppner has suggested zoning changes to allow live-work buildings. The council would have “no obligation to act” on those recommendations.

The group would get $4,500 to create and maintain the non-profit and a website, $4,900 for mailings to homeowners and businesses in those neighborhoods—Winfield Park, Chatham Hills, Boca Woods, Villa Rica—and to hold a community event, $3,000 to host the events and $3,400 to create renderings and brochures.

Scott Singer announces re-election bid

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Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer

Boca Raton’s election is a year away, but Mayor Scott Singer already has announced his candidacy for re-election.

In a Monday email, Singer cited higher property values and lower crime rates. Also on the 2023 ballot will be the seat of Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke, who is term-limited. Andy Thomson would have been seeking another term, but he is running for the Florida House and must resign his council post by late this year. The council will name an interim member until the election.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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