Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast President Tom VanOsdol said the pandemic, which shut down the economy a year ago, didn’t keep the health system from moving forward with expansion projects and executing strategic goals.
If anything, Ascension St. Vincent’s is as busy as ever.
As the hospital moves away from COVID management, it intends to develop a hospital in St. Johns County, expand ambulatory and satellite campuses and provide new services, VanOsdol said.
“We’re committed to growth and continuing to invest,” he said. “We haven’t shelved any plans and we haven’t pulled back on any capital investment. We want to be here to meet the long-term needs of the individuals.”
Ascension St. Vincent’s broke ground in December on a St. Johns County hospital at Interstate 95 and County Road 210. VanOsdol said the hospital is part of a strategy to bring care closer to patients.
Another aspect of that is adding primary care clinics and ambulatory services throughout Northeast Florida, he said. That means more doctors’ offices, health centers and free-standing ERs.
The system plans to add 30 primary care physicians in the area in the next 18 months.
It opened its first two free-standing ERs last year in Arlington and on the Westside.
“We’re continuing in our march to make care more accessible and provide it in the most appropriate venue,” VanOsdol said.
Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside is the second-largest hospital in Northeast Florida with 466 beds.
Its Southside campus has 242 beds and Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay has 98, according to 2019 Florida Agency for Health Care Administration data, the latest data available.
In the past year, the hospital added 30 beds to its Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay campus and expanded the hospital’s ICU and cardiac catheterization lab.
It also launched an orthopedic specialty hospital at its Southside campus at 4201 Belfort Road in partnership with Healthcare Outcomes Performance Company and Southeast Orthopedic Specialists.
At its Riverside campus at 1 Shircliff Way, VanOsdol said the hospital is expanding its endovascular neurosurgery capabilities, used in treating stroke patients. That program will launch in the summer, he said.
VanOsdol said he wants to grow the hospital system’s mental and behavioral health services in the coming years.
He said the hospital launched an intensive outpatient behavioral health counseling program at its Southside campus during the pandemic.
St. Vincent’s will continue to invest in the program, offering more outpatient and virtual mental health services. There are 13 mental health outpatient offices in Northeast Florida and South Georgia.
“Moving more into the space of providing for individuals’ mental health and behavioral health needs is very much a part of our mission and part of serving our market,” VanOsdol said.
Like many other health systems, Ascension St. Vincent’s significantly ramped up its telehealth capabilities last year from about 100 patients a month to 25,000, VanOsdol said. While that number is lower now, it is a service of continued focus.
“People accessing care virtually will be one of the long-lasting effects of the pandemic,” he said.
“It is a safe, effective way, particularly for folks in rural communities who may have travel difficulties to access the care that they need.”
As soon as it is asked, VanOsdol said the system would be ready to distribute 5,000 to 6,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a day. So far, it has vaccinated about 30,000 people.
Just like the rest of the past year, setting up vaccination capability required quick and nimble thinking, he said.
“It has been an incredibly dynamic year of learning and change management, being flexible and continuing to grow in our knowledge and our ability to deliver safe care in this highly dynamic and changing time,” VanOsdol said.