HCA Healthcare’s North Florida Division plans to build three new ER’s and four urgent care centers in Central Florida in 2018

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HCA's freestanding emergency room at Hunter's Creek in Orange County. (HCA)

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital operators, plans to build three new freestanding emergency departments and four new urgent care centers in central Florida in 2018, the Orlando Business Journal reports.

The overall value of the projects is expected to be about $38 million.

Two of the facilities will be built in Orange County near Baldwin Park and in the Millenia area, with another in Seminole County on International Parkway. Each will operate as a full-service emergency department providing 24/7 emergency care for adults and children. The locations will be about 10,000 sq. ft. and contain approximately 11 beds, according to HCA.

HCA still is working to nail down the exact locations for the facilities and has yet to choose a general contractor.

Jake Kirchner, regional vice-president for planning and development at HCA, said the exact timeline of the project still has to be determined, but he hopes construction will start on each of the facilities in 2018 and said it will take four to six months to complete each one.

“We found that freestanding ERs have been successful for the overall hospital system. The care is much quicker there and operations are more streamlined compared to hospitals depending on time of day and season of year. Typically when we are busy in the ER at hospitals, you have patients waiting to get in beds. The situation is different for freestanding ERs,” Kirchner said. “Convenience is a big motivator for patients today, they look for a local health care options and the sites we are developing at are where there’s a need to be closer to home for patients.”

Another emerging trend, yet to arrive in Central Florida is the micro-hospital concept, where health systems tack a 6-to 8-bed hospital onto the free-standing emergency room.

Meanwhile, each health system in Orlando now has its own chain of urgent care centers, besides several others that are not owned by the hospitals. Florida Blue, one of the largest health insurers in the state, recently got into the game by opening GuideWell Emergency Doctors in Winter Park and Semoran, combining emergency medicine with urgent care.

Freestanding emergency centers typically are owned and operated by licensed hospitals. The facilities are not connected to a main hospital campus but offer the same comprehensive 24/7 emergency services. The number of such facilities is on the rise in Florida, in part due to overcrowded ERs, and partly due to a desire to grow hospital system revenue.

HCA now has just one freestanding ER, which is in Hunter’s Creek. It will serve as a model for the new three facilities. That 10,600-sq, ft. ER cost $10 million to build and created 40 jobs.

Meanwhile, HCA also plans to open four CareNow Urgent Care centers: Sanford, Lake Mary, east Orlando on Alafaya Trail and in Winter Park. CareNow opened its first Orlando-area clinic last February, in Winter Springs.

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