Flagler Health+ says ‘evolving industry headwinds’ led to planned merger with UF Health

CEO Carlton DeVooght says it received “a lot of offers from a lot of different organizations.”

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  • | 3:54 p.m. February 3, 2023
Flagler Health+ President and CEO Carlton DeVooght
Flagler Health+ President and CEO Carlton DeVooght
Photo by Michael LeGrand
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Flagler Health+ President and CEO Carlton DeVooght said the hospital considered the needs of its growing St. Johns County service area as it started merger talks with UF Health.

“We looked at all of the needs of this growing community and found there was a need for a partner from a capital perspective as well as from a growing development of facilities and support for our team and the communities we serve,” he said.

“It’s always beneficial to any organization when they want to come into a new community. We are very fortunate to live in one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. Folks want to live in Northeast Florida.”

Vooght said Flagler Health+ has engaged UF Health in an exclusive, nonbinding merger contract.

Flagler Health+ announced Feb. 2 that due diligence was beginning immediately for completion by the third quarter.

DeVooght said contracts could be signed soon after.

The Flagler Health+ website spelled out the need for a merger: 

“Like many health systems in the US, we are facing both new and evolving industry headwinds, such as the increased cost of staffing and supplies, coupled with lower reimbursement rates from government payors. We believe by becoming a part of UF Health, we will benefit from UF Health’s access to additional resources and unique position in the health care marketplace to better serve our patients.”

In August 2022, Flagler Health+ announced it was seeking to partner with another medical facility. The request for proposals went out soon after the announcement.

“People had thought that we were well down the road in this process when in fact we have been very upfront and honest with folks every step of the way,” DeVooght  said.

Flagler Health+ is a not-for-profit medical facility that was formed in 1889.

Though it was a broad search, the RFP reflected the need for shared values, DeVooght said. 

“We were blessed to have received a lot of offers from a lot of different organizations. In the end, we did select a not-for-profit partner and that will make some things smoother for the transition,” DeVooght said.

UF Health is the University of Florida’s academic health center. It has seven hospitals in the University of Florida health system including the teaching hospital at UF Health-Jacksonville.

UF Health will soon open Jacksonville-based Emergency & Urgent Care Centers in Baymeadows, West Jacksonville and Northwest Jacksonville. 

DeVooght said it was too early to discuss personnel changes at Flagler Health+.

“We are going to work with our physician leaders and assess where they need support. At this point that is something that will be worked out with our operational teams,” he said.

“The UF team has been very open in their praise for our employees, our physicians and our whole team.”

DeVooght said UF has expressed a desire to keep the Flagler Health+ name as part of any new branding.

“It’s important for everyone to know that the team at UF Health has readily acknowledged the value the Flagler Health+ name has in the communities we serve. They are very cognizant of that.”