Face Off: How healthcare is evolving in Palm Beach County

Face Off: How healthcare is evolving in Palm Beach County

2023-08-23T08:23:43-04:00August 23rd, 2023|Face Off, Healthcare, Palm Beach|

Writer: Gabriela Enamorado 

3 min read August 2023 — Healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in Palm Beach County, accounting for 79,405 jobs in 5,494 healthcare related companies, according to the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB). 

With the influx of relocations happening in the county, the more need there is for healthcare services, and Palm Beach County’s healthcare leaders are working to meet their community needs. Amit Rastogi, CEO of Jupiter Medical Center, and Caitlin Stella, CEO of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, spoke with Invest: about their organizations’ recent milestones as well as their insights into the challenges Palm Beach County’s healthcare sector has experienced and what’s on the horizon. 

What have been the highlights for your organization over the past year? 

Cailtin Stella: First, let me start by thanking Palm Beach County for the warm welcome over the past few years. We have been in Boca for many years and really felt the love from the community when we built our children’s specialty center in Wellington a few years ago. We are grateful to support the wonderful people in the County. We are proud to bring our highly specialized team of pediatric physicians and clinicians to children and families in the area. This sets us apart as our clinical team is specifically focused on providing care for children and their unique healthcare and developmental needs.

Our multidisciplinary teams consist of various pediatric specialists who work together to address specific diagnoses and health needs. We believe that having specialized expertise in pediatric care is crucial for providing the best outcomes for children. For instance, in orthopedics, we not only have a group of orthopedic surgeons but also non-surgical pediatric specialists who focus on areas like sports medicine. This is important because the approach to treating children is different due to their ongoing growth and development; therefore, our goal is to manage their conditions without surgery whenever possible.

Something else we bring to the market is harnessing expertise in pediatric care not only with our team but also listening to the pediatricians and other providers in the community. Children are not small adults and we have observed growing complexity in children’s healthcare needs, and we have worked diligently to fill the gaps in specialized care for children in the region by working closely with parent groups, pediatricians and hospitals and working to meet their needs. We have continuously expanded our services in terms of depth and breadth to ensure that children receive the comprehensive and specialized care they require.

Amit Rastogi: It has been a busy 12 months for us, especially coming out of the pandemic. We have been busy meeting the needs of the community and, lately, focusing on getting back to the other aspects of non-COVID healthcare, which many folks had been putting off. Annual wellness visits, mammograms, non-urgent orthopedic procedures and other needs have increased in demand again. We all know that preventive care is just as important as acute care; we have been busy providing that access over the past year. In the non-clinical area, we have also been prioritizing meeting community needs as we work to invest in the Palm Beach area. The growth we are experiencing in Florida has been pretty amazing, so we have been growing, too, in order to meet increasing needs. Our new Surgical Institute will be 90,000 square feet and bring an additional 16 operating rooms to our campus, and they will be significantly larger than our existing rooms. As medical technology evolves, we want to continue to take advantage of advances in robotic techniques and other non-invasive procedures. We plan to bring this online in December 2023. 

What are some of the prevalent challenges within Palm Beach County and how are you working to circumvent or mitigate these?

Stella: One challenge we face is geographic sprawl, as we have several communities with diverse needs. It is important for us to strategically determine where we should be physically located to create the greatest impact. We recognize that we cannot do it alone and need to work in partnership with other organizations and institutions. The Healthcare District of Palm Beach County and schools are examples of key partners we collaborate with. We also value the input and collaboration of community-based organizations and pediatric specialists. By working together, we can establish a system of care that addresses the diverse needs of children and maximizes our collective impact.

Behavioral health is another area where collaboration and a consolidated system of care are particularly crucial. Rather than relying solely on emergency rooms, we aim to identify and address behavioral health needs early on. This requires a comprehensive approach involving home, school, pediatricians, and other organizations. Therefore, our goal is to create a seamless system where each organization plays a role based on their expertise, working together to provide the best possible care. 

Lastly, we recognize that different public health issues for children may follow a similar pattern, highlighting the need for a more integrated and coordinated system. As we develop our strategic plan, we remain committed to supporting and providing care where it is most needed, contributing to a stronger healthcare system that addresses the unique challenges facing children and families in our communities.

How is Jupiter Medical Center navigating labor challenges? 

Rastogi: We are not alone in these challenges; health systems and hospitals across the country are struggling with workforce recruitment and retention. The pandemic placed such a huge burden on healthcare providers that we saw preexisting shortages exacerbate. Because of the strain placed on frontline healthcare workers, 1 out of 4 nurses left the profession altogether. Similar statistics can be seen across the board for physicians and other providers. To address this, we have implemented strategies from our HR division, making JMC a great place to work. We have created a nurse-to-patient ratio so nurses feel their workload is more manageable, which helps prevent burnout and improves quality of care. We also offer scholarships and tuition relief because we know there is a great burden many students face when they have to take out student loans. Anything we can do to help alleviate that helps us from a recruitment and retention standpoint and lessening the financial burden also prevents burnout. We also provide competitive wages in order to provide our team members what they need to afford the cost of living in the area, especially considering recent inflation. 

What is your outlook for Palm Beach County’s healthcare sector and your organization? 

Stella: We have observed an increase in transfers of children from Palm Beach hospitals and emergency departments to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. To accommodate increased demand, we expanded our hospital by adding four stories in 2022. This expansion involved incorporating advanced technology and additional procedural areas to ensure we can meet the needs of children requiring hospital care.

We anticipate a period of continued growth as more families and businesses come to Palm Beach. As a committed resource and partner to the community, we will continue our strategic planning activities to identify and address the evolving needs of children and families. We value our relationships with organizations that share our commitment to high-quality care for children. Our mission remains focused on healing the body, mind, and spirit of the children we serve, providing them with specialized high-quality and safe care in a child-friendly environment.  This is our true north.

Rastogi: The future is bright for Palm Beach County. Jupiter Medical Center is constantly working to meet the needs of our growing community through our Surgical Institute and our groundbreaking for our 92-bed patient care tower. We have 242 beds today and the new patient care tower will bring us close to 350 beds. That project will be completed by 2025. We also have a five-story parking garage being built on our campus to be completed in 2025. As we think about continuing to increase access to care, we are also building a neighborhood hospital in Avenir. Today, there are 35,000 residents living there and there will be close to 45,000 once Avenir is completed. They do not have access to a hospital or emergency room within a 15-mile radius. Once that neighborhood hospital is online, it will bring in-patient beds, 24/7 emergency room care, operating rooms, lab imaging and offices very close to home. We are so excited for what the future holds for JMC and Palm Beach County.  

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