Orlando Health hasn’t even broken ground yet on its Lakeland Highlands hospital location, but officials have already doubled plans for the facility just south of the Polk Parkway. Hospital officials announced that they are scrapping their original plan for a 136-bed facility and instead building a 302-bed hospital with 30 intensive care and progressive care rooms.

Plans also call for 16 rooms for the women’s birthing program, a 48-bed emergency department and additional medical and support services that include imaging, laboratories, a pharmacy, dining and a gift shop. There will also be space for a neonatal ICU.

“Following additional review, Orlando Health determined that it can best meet the healthcare needs of the Lakeland and greater Polk County communities by opening a hospital with more inpatient capacity than we originally announced,” Dr. Jamal Hakim, Orlando Health‘s chief operating officer, said in a press release. “As one of the state’s fastest-growing communities, Orlando Health recognizes that it needs to accelerate its delivery of high-quality, outcomes-based healthcare to these communities. We are excited about our revised plan and its many benefits for the community.”

The hospital, which is approved for up to 360 beds, is scheduled to open in 2026. Orlando Health did a feasibility study in early 2020 and showed a need for 600 additional beds.

Orlando Health is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with $8 billion of assets under management that serves the southeastern United States, according to the press release. The 3,200-bed system has more than two dozen facilities stretching from The Villages to Melbourne to St. Petersburg, including 10 hospitals, nine hospital-based ERs, and seven free-standing emergency rooms.

Orlando Health also recently acquired a hospital in Puerto Rico. They have rehabilitation services, cancer and heart institutes, imaging and laboratory services, wound care centers, physician offices for adults and pediatrics, skilled nursing facilities, an in-patient behavioral health facility, home healthcare services, and urgent care centers.

More than 4,200 physicians, representing more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties have privileges across the Orlando Health system, which employs more than 23,000 people. In FY21, Orlando Health served more than 160,000 inpatients and 3.6 million outpatients.

When built, Orlando Health’s facility will be second in size locally to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, which has operated here for more than a century. The LRH facility is an 864-bed hospital with an operating revenue of $978 million in fiscal year 2021 and nearly $5 billion in gross patient revenue.

It is a comprehensive tertiary referral hospital and operates a Level II trauma center, a Level III neonatal intensive care unit and had more than 190,000 visitors to its emergency departments last year – one of the busiest emergency rooms in the country, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, second only to Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas.

LRHMC’s ER

In addition to its main campus, which includes the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children, it has 15 other clinics, offices and urgent care centers in Lakeland, Auburndale, Winter Haven, Lake Wales and Plant City.

The medical center treats more than 2,800 trauma visits annually and has an accredited comprehensive stroke center and chest pain center. In the last several years, it opened the 32-bed Bannasch Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation Medicine. 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.

Lakeland Regional is currently building a 300,000-square-foot campus at Kathleen Road and I-4, which will include an emergency room and include a graduate medical education program. Officials are also planning for a possible nursing home on the site, as well. It announced plans for an emergency services facility off South Florida Avenue, south of Schoolhouse Road, and a 100-acre medical complex off U.S. 98 near Highland City.

The competing hospitals are part of an increase in medical facilities in Polk County, one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation.  Earlier this month, The Ledger reported that 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. Several neighbors spoke at this week’s School Board meeting, asking board members to voice their opposition to the plan before it goes before the Polk County Commission on Nov. 22.

Other hospital facilities in Polk include:

  • Bartow Regional Medical Center Baycare with 72 beds and $369 million in gross patient revenue.
  • AdventHealth Heart of Florida Hospital in Davenport with 193 beds and $1.7 billion in gross patient revenue.
  • AdventHealth Lake Wales with 131 beds and $532.8 million in gross patient revenue.
  • HCA Florida Poinciana Hospital with 76 beds and $1.14 billion in gross patient revenue.
  • Winter Haven Hospital Baycare with 485 beds and nearly $2 billion in gross patient revenue.

A Veterans Administration Hospital is also planned for the Lakeland Highlands area.

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Kimberly C. Moore

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 kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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