UF Health to acquire Leesburg, Villages regional hospitals


Leesburg Regional Medical Center will become UF Health Leesburg Hospital. // Archive photo

In a mutual agreement, UF Health will acquire Central Florida Health’s regional hospitals in Leesburg and The Villages in early 2020, pending final reviews.

Leesburg Regional Medical Center will become UF Health Leesburg Hospital, and The Villages Regional Hospital will become UF Health The Villages Hospital, according to a news release from University of Florida Health.

The agreement builds on a strategic affiliation that has connected local residents to leading-edge stroke care and other health-care services for several years. Administrators believe the move will strengthen and improve the availability of high-quality, efficient, affordable health care for Lake, Sumter and Marion counties through the 660-bed regional system, while preserving and enhancing the hospitals’ focus on other important missions of research, medical education and charity care, the release states.

Over time, long-term capital plans will be considered for new equipment and technologies and facility improvements, including construction of a new general acute care hospital in association with The Villages. In January, a new 24-hour freestanding emergency room will open on State Road 44 in Wildwood, just across from Brownwood Paddock Square in The Villages.

“UF Health and Central Florida Health have had a complementary, collegial relationship that has already begun to expand the health-care services available to patients in the area,” David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health, says in the release. “Together we will concentrate on leveraging each other’s strengths as we aim to serve the community by providing the best possible patient care—creating a smoother and more coordinated patient experience—and training the next generation of health-care providers. We are looking forward to working with community physicians who practice at the hospitals and others on the health-care team to serve the needs of the community and bring the latest health-care advances to the region.”

UF Health and Central Florida Health have been working to develop leading-edge patient care programs and improve access to specialty services, advanced technology and clinical studies for area residents. The focus has included creating primary care physician training opportunities to meet the increasing demand for primary care physicians as the region’s population quickly grows.

UF Health physicians work with Central Florida Health to provide comprehensive stroke care and telestroke services to their patients when needed, offering timely access to the latest technology and the most advanced treatments available, and providing around-the-clock access to consultations with a vascular neurologist regarding treatment plans and decisions related to administration of the clot-busting drug tPA for patients who remain in the local area. UF Health also provides educational opportunities, including continuing medical education about the latest in stroke care, according to the release.

“UF Health is at the forefront of a variety of clinical and research advances, and the University of Florida ranks among the top public universities in the country,” Don Henderson, CEO of Central Florida Health, says in the release. “We’re looking forward to being able to offer additional depth and new alternatives for local residents requiring specialized care in areas where there is a growing community need, while also ensuring they are able to easily obtain primary care.”

Don adds that local physicians who have an interest in research and training programs will be able to take advantage of more options, including additional continuing medical education opportunities. In addition, UF Health is seeking to grow its research enterprise to further benefit patients and move medicine forward, and to serve an additional mission of training the next generation of health-care providers through development of additional primary care physician training programs and other programs for health professionals.

The demand for primary care physicians is increasing as the region’s population quickly grows, and doctors tend to establish their practices close to where they complete their training. Expanding the physician workforce also provides added economic benefits to the local community and throughout the state.

Officials also will discuss establishing common approaches to quality care and safety initiatives.

“Combining our organizations’ talents and resources is easy because we share common values and a common vision: Each day our health-care teams come to work with a singular focus on the patient. The patient is at the center of everything we do,” Ed Jimenez, chief executive officer of UF Health Shands, says in the release. “We are excited about maximizing treatment options, improving coordination of care, offering the latest medical breakthroughs and exploring new opportunities related to our community service, medical education and research activities.”

Technically known as a member substitution agreement, Tuesday’s move follows an announcement last week that The Villages and UF Health had signed a letter of intent to work together to develop a comprehensive health-care campus offering a full portfolio of education, research and advanced health care and wellness services for The Villages. The vision will include a variety of UF Health medical practices as well as teaching and research alliances with various UF colleges, along with associated centers and institutes. UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension programming focused on food and nutrition also will be a highlight.