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UF Health In, Nemours Out At Sacred Heart

There’s a change in the lineup on the horizon at Sacred Heart Health System, in the area of child health care. 

Work is underway to finalize a contract with Gainesville-based University of Florida Health, as the deal with longtime provider Nemours is set to expire at year’s end after 19 years. Susan Davis is Sacred Heart Health System President and CEO.  

“We are building a children’s hospital, making an $85 million investment,” said Davis. “What we wanted to do is look at the options that we had to continue to grow pediatric sub-specialty services in the community.”

Construction on the Studer Family Children’s Hospital is scheduled to begin in November, for opening in 2018. In July, Sacred Heart sent out a Request for Proposals to a half dozen children’s providers, including Nemours and UF Health. 

“Nemours docs are wonderful; they really are. But there are 25 Nemours physicians,” said Davis. “We want to be able to cover a wider swath of geography across the Panhandle.”

If an agreement is reached on a contract, UF Health would recruit physicians trained in multiple pediatric sub-specialties, such as oncology, cardiology, neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery.  

“I get calls saying, ‘my child needs a pediatric sub-specialist, and I called Nemours and it’s two months before I can get an appointment,’” Davis said. “That was part of our request for proposals. How was the provider going to expand services?”

UF Health appears to have had a bit of a head start. Two of Sacred Heart’s residency programs – pediatric and obstetrics –were transitioned to UF in January. The third residency -- internal medicine – is expected to join them in the next few weeks. 

The pediatric changeover comes as Sacred Heart is planning to introduce a new program. 

“We have the intention of starting a kidney transplant unit,” said Davis. “And it was UF that worked with us at the state level, and also at the federal level to get the approval for the program. [UF also] trained our staff, [and] helped us put together policies and procedures.”

But even with the transition from Nemours to UF, Davis says they’re not saying farewell to Nemours, who leaves the campus when its lease is up in 2018.

“They have told us, and they’ve made very public announcements, that they do expect that they are staying in Pensacola,” Davis said. “They will have privileges at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, and continue to be able to practice at Sacred Heart.”

Aside from the residency programs, the remainder of Sacred Heart Hospital’s transition to UF Health began late last month, as the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted on the contract. Target date for the changeover is January 1.