The construction entrance to Orlando Health's Lakeland facility off Lakeland Highlands Road. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

The number of medical facilities in Lakeland is on the cusp of a major expansion.

Orlando Health has broken ground on its seven-story, 302-bed Lakeland Highlands Hospital, which is scheduled to open in 2026.

Skanska, a Stockholm-based project development and construction group, landed the $109 million contract to build the 581,251 square-foot acute care facility. The new hospital will feature a 48-bed emergency department, 30 intensive care rooms, 16 rooms for a women’s birthing program, shelled space for a future neonatal intensive care unit and additional support services including imaging, a lab, a pharmacy, a dining room and a gift shop.

Bill Kallus, a spokesman for Orlando Health’s Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg, confirmed that “Skanska is our competitively selected construction manager.” The company recently completed Orlando Health’s $187 million Jewett Orthopedic Institute, which began welcoming patients in March.

The new south Lakeland facility is being constructed on 80 acres at the southeast corner of the Polk Parkway at Lakeland Highlands Road. It was originally only going to have 136 beds, but Orlando Health officials more than doubled its scale last year after conducting a feasibility study that showed a need for 600 additional hospital beds in Lakeland.

A rendering of Orlando Health’s planned seven-story Lakeland Highlands Hospital, which is under construction and expected to open in 2026. | Provided by Orlando Health

Orlando Health’s relationship with Lakeland has evolved over the past six years.  In 2017, Orlando Health and Lakeland Regional Health announced plans for a partnership, but those plans fell apart a year later.

Orlando Health is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with $9.2 billion of assets under management. The 3,888-bed system includes 29 hospitals and emergency departments — 24 of which are currently operational and five more that are coming soon.  Facilities stretch from The Villages to Melbourne to St. Petersburg and across the Caribbean to Puerto Rico.

The construction site of Orlando Health’s new Lakeland hospital, at Lakeland Highlands Road and the Polk Parkway. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

More than 4,750 physicians, representing more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties have privileges across the Orlando Health system, which employs more than 27,000 people. In FY22, Orlando Health served more than 142,000 inpatients and 3.9 million outpatients.

The healthcare organization has gotten permits to clear the property, which it has begun in earnest.

“We anticipate the future arrival of Orlando Health and its medical complex as an augmentation of the health care needs of our growing community,” said Mayor Bill Mutz.

When completed, Orlando Health’s new facility will be second in size locally to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, which has operated here for more than a century.

Lakeland Regional Health is also expanding

Lakeland Regional Health’s flagship medical center is an 864-bed hospital with a Level II trauma center and a Level III neonatal intensive care unit. Its emergency room was recently ranked the second-busiest in the nation with more than 190,000 visitors to its emergency department in 2021.

The medical center treats more than 2,800 trauma patients annually and has an accredited comprehensive stroke center and chest pain center. In 2015, it opened the 32-bed Bannasch Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation Medicine. In 2018, it opened the eight-story Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children. Last year, it added the 96-bed Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Health.

It also has 15 other clinics, offices and urgent care centers in Lakeland, Auburndale, Winter Haven, Lake Wales and Plant City.

And it’s not done expanding.

On Tuesday, LRH got approval from the city’s Planning and Zoning Board to change the zoning of .88 acres of land next to its Morrell building so it can build 3,000 square feet of medical office space for its new graduate medical education program. Its first 70 residents began their training earlier this month.

The land — south of East Lane, east of Morrell Drive and north of Parkview Place — is currently being used for employee parking but it is zoned RA-4, which allows single-family homes. LRH requested a change to O-1, which would allow low-impact office use. The request will now head to the City Commission for final approval.

Lakeland Regional had operating revenue of $978 million in fiscal year 2021 and nearly $5 billion in gross patient revenue. It has more than 6,400 employees and offers more than 35 specialties, including a cancer center and a neurosciences center in conjunction with the University of South Florida.

It is in the final stages of construction of a 300,000-square-foot campus at Kathleen Road and I-4, about 2.4 miles northwest of its main campus, which will include an emergency room, urgent care center and clinical space for its family medicine residents. Officials are also considering a possible nursing home on the site.

A rendering of the Lakeland Regional Health satellite facility under construction at Kathleen Road and Interstate 4.

It is planning a $25 million free-standing emergency services facility on 2.2 acres at 6150 S. Florida Ave., south of Schoolhouse Road. The planned ER will have 17 beds and three triage rooms.

A rendering of Lakeland Regional Health’s free-standing emergency services facility planned on South Florida Avenue.

LRH also “continues to consider plans” for 100 acres of land it owns at U.S. Highway 98 just south of County Road 540-A.

Meeting the need for medical care in Polk County

The competing hospitals are part of an increase in medical facilities in Polk County, one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation. 

A 92,600-square-foot Veterans Administration outpatient clinic is under construction at 3530 Lakeland Highlands Road. It will replace a facility less than a quarter of its size on South Pipkin Road.

The new clinic is expected to open in 2024 and will offer greater access to mental health care as well as primary care, audiology, an eye clinic, and specialty clinics including podiatry, prosthetics and physical therapy.

Exterior renderings of the Veterans Administration outpatient clinic under construction a at 3530 Lakeland Highland Road.

Other hospital facilities in the county include:

Late last year, the Polk Planning Board rejected plans by HCA Healthcare, one of the largest hospital chains in the country, to put a 60-bed hospital on property it bought between Valleyview Elementary School and George Jenkins High School off County Road 540-A.

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Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at or 863-272-9250.

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