Lakeland Regional Health's Kathleen Road facility, which opened on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore,
Lakeland Regional Health's Kathleen Road facility, which opened on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore,

The doors opened and doctors started seeing patients Monday at Lakeland Regional Health’s newest location: a three-story, $65 million facility on 20.6 acres at Kathleen Road and Interstate Highway 4.

The new 76,000-square-foot center has 52 state-of-the-art patient exam rooms and four procedure rooms. It offers primary care, family medicine, lab services and specialty care services in neurology, pulmonology, urology, general surgery and trauma, infectious disease and endocrinology. It also houses LRH’s new graduate medical education program.

The Kathleen Road campus is part of the hospital board’s plans to expand services and service areas, increase the number of physicians on staff and provide specialized care for which people have had to leave the county in the past.

An urgent care center is scheduled to open in the next few months for things like minor injuries, infections and viruses. A freestanding emergency department is also planned, which will treat things like broken bones and more acute illnesses. For issues needing surgery, the main hospital will be a quick ambulance ride away.

In addition, the board also plans to add an obstetrics/gynecology specialty residency. 

Lakeland Regional Health's Kathleen Road facility, which opened on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore,
Lakeland Regional Health’s Kathleen Road facility, which opened on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore,

Addressing a shortage of accessible care

“We are one of the largest hospitals in Florida. With the addition of our new behavioral health beds last year, we are just shy of 900 beds,” said Danielle Drummond, president and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health.

“Approximately 90% of our patients do originate from Polk County,” Drummond said. “We remain the second busiest emergency department in the entire country — approximately 200,000 visits on an annual basis. And this is largely in part to the fact that we do have such a large, robust suite of services that we provide, including being the only trauma center in the county.”

“Unfortunately, Polk County still has 1/3 fewer primary care providers and 1/2 the number of behavioral health providers when you compare our community to other parts of the state.”

Danielle Drummond, President and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health

Drummond gave a presentation to the Lakeland City Commission at its meeting Monday morning. LRH’s assets are owned by the city of Lakeland and managed by Lakeland Regional Health. In October 2021, the city commission agreed to allow LRH to pay the city $215 million to fulfill the hospital’s lease through 2040. Before that, the lease paid to the city was $14 million a year. By paying it off early, the hospital saved $52 million.

The non-profit medical provider had an operating revenue of $978 million in fiscal year 2021 and nearly $5 billion in gross patient revenue.

“The north Lakeland market continues to be a growing part of our community and therefore has major shortages in primary care access, and specialty care access,” said LRH Senior Vice President of Business Development Patrick Phillips.

Phillips said LRH continues to find a major need for accessible emergency care throughout Lakeland and the surrounding areas.

Lakeland Regional Health's Kathleen Road facility, which opened on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore,
Lakeland Regional Health’s Kathleen Road facility, which opened on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. | Kimberly C. Moore,

Residency program helps ‘train the next generation of physicians’

Drummond explained that the hospital has been pursuing a graduate medical education program for medical residents for at least a decade to help provide more patient care and to act as a funnel for new doctors looking to move Central Florida.

“It just made sense for us to invite those physicians into our environment and to help train the next generation of physicians,” Drummond said. “We all know that the best hospitals in the country are teaching hospitals. So we’re very committed to continue to improve the quality of care that we provide and patient outcomes.”

In addition to the specialties, the LRH board wants to add fellowships in pulmonary/critical care, cardiology, and hematology/oncology.

“Oftentimes internal medicine residents will want to move on and pursue a fellowship, so by having that here that would allow those individuals to be able to stay in our community,” Drummond explained. “It will also have the benefit of when individuals are considering where to train in internal medicine. If they know they want to go into a specialty area, they may be more likely to choose to come to us if they know that they can stay and pursue that fellowship.”

And, she said, having residents see patients will help LRH increase access for under-served residents

“Unfortunately, Polk County still has one-third fewer primary care providers and half the number of behavioral health providers when you compare our community to other parts of the state,” Drummond said. “So we know that we do need to continue to focus on having a strong pipeline of physicians to meet our current and future healthcare needs.”

Lakeland Regional has more than 7,300 employees, including;

  • More than 1,160 medical staff team members;
  • More than 800 physicians and 360 advanced practice providers, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and dependent practitioners;
  • More than 320 employed physicians and advanced practitioners in the LRH Physician Group at more than 20 locations in nearly 50 specialties.
  • 70 medical residents

Two of those medical residents are locally grown.

Dr. Vivek Patel grew up in Lakeland and is an internal medicine resident.

Dr. Aaron Bradford Hall grew up in Mulberry, now lives in Lakeland and started his medical career at Lakeland Regional.

“He used to be a pharmacist with us and then decided he wanted to go back to medical school,” Drummond said. “And when he wanted to pursue emergency medicine, it was sort of a no-brainer that he should come to us. So we’re thrilled to have him join us in his new capacity and he’s really hit the ground running, as you might imagine.”

Rapid growth over the past 5 years

Courtesy LRHMC
Courtesy LRHMC

The Kathleen Road Campus is LRH’s 11th outpatient location. LRH offers primary and urgent care, as well as care in nearly 30 specialties. 

Lakeland’s Watson Clinic has 18 outpatient locations.

Competition in Lakeland is intensifying with several new providers moving into the city, including Winter Haven’s Bond Clinic, which added a Lakeland campus on Edgewood Drive in 2020. Orlando Health is building a new 302-bed hospital, with 30 intensive care and progressive care rooms, off Lakeland Highlands Road and the Polk Parkway, while a veteran’s clinic is under construction just north of that location.

In the last 10 years, LRH has expanded its neonatal care, cardiology services and and behavioral health facilities.

The $275 million Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children opened five years ago. It has the only level three NICU in the county and the only dedicated children’s emergency department and pediatric surgical services, as well as a fetal care center, which provides access for high-risk mothers during their pregnancies.

“We actually have delivered more than 4,000 babies this past year,” Drummond said. “That number was under 3,000 when the pavilion opened.”

The pavilion’s neonatal intensive care unit, she said, ensures that the hospital can take care of the most urgent newborn cases.

“It really gives assurances to moms that they know if they deliver at Lakeland Regional, they and their entire family will be able to stay and make sure that they can get access to that care for the smallest and most fragile of our patients,” Drummond said, adding LRH has also partnered with Nemours Children’s Health in Orlando.

The Jack and Tina Harrell Institute for Advanced Cardiovascular Medicine is a nationally accredited chest-pain center. It is the only hospital in Polk County to offer Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), a life-saving support in cardiovascular and critical care. The treatment takes the  patients’ blood and sends it through a heart and lung machine, outside of the body, and then brings it back in, providing rest for their real heart and lungs and allow those organs to recover from whatever condition they might be experiencing. It was brought in during the COVID-19 pandemic and proved to be life-saving for patients, Drummond said.

Last year, the $46 million Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Wellness opened, a freestanding mental-health facility with state of the art inpatient and outpatient treatments for everything from major depression to schizophrenia to bipolar disorder.

LRH also opened in the last five years the Bannasch Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation Medicine, a physical rehab center that allows patients to move seamlessly from the hospital to the on-site rehab center for inpatient and outpatient care.

The Hollis Cancer Center opened in 2003, serving more than 5,500 patients in 2021. It holds top-tier Gold Status Accreditation from the Commission on Cancer and was named one of 24 oncology programs in the U.S. to earn the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer.

Plans for new facilities

In addition to the Kathleen Road campus, construction is underway for a freestanding emergency department at South Florida Avenue and County Road 540-A, which is set to open in 2025.

It will be designed to care for children, with 20 total patient beds, including two semi-private rooms for critical care and three triage rooms.

Courtesy LRHMC
Courtesy LRHMC

A 55,000 square-foot doctors office is planned for property at South Florida avenue, north of 540-A.

And LRH owns 100 acres along Bartow Highway at the eastern end of 540-A, with plans for a hospital that will include acute care, an emergency department, ambulatory care centers and medical office buildings.

There is no word on the timeline of when those two facilities will be built.

“I think our work will remain to make sure that we can have those access to services that are really going to be impactful,” Drummond told city commissioners. “I think that’s where our biggest opportunity lies as we look to the future, but we’re not able to do it alone. As you said, it’s got to be a community collaborative effort. And I’m very encouraged by the work that we’re doing together to try and move the needle on a number of these metrics.”

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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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1 Comment

  1. Outstanding article, very exciting information about the present and future of our medical fields.

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