The NCH Healthcare System plans to open a freestanding emergency room and other medical programs in Estero by fall 2018. The proposed location is 3.5 acres on the west side of U.S. 41 across from Coconut Point mall.
The project, NCH Healthcare Estero, will cost $30 million and create 80 jobs, along with elevating competition with the Lee Health system. The project will be two stories and encompass 40,000 square feet.
The two hospital groups have been jostling for market dominance in fast-growing Estero and Bonita Springs for years.
The publicly run Lee Health and its board of directors recently signed off on spending $140 million to build a vast outpatient- based medical campus on a 30 acre site at Coconut Point that will include a freestanding ER. Lee Health’s plans for the outpatient complex is an alternative to an 80-bed hospital that south Lee residents clamored for and that state regulators rejected during a first-round application in 2014. NCH fought the hospital proposal, and Lee Health officials decided to drop it instead of pursuing it in a second go-around.
NCH has submitted its Estero plans, called a development order, to the Village of Estero. The first of two public hearings and consideration before the design review board is scheduled for Wednesday. “In our ongoing effort to bring the highest quality medical services to the residents and visitors of Southwest Florida, NCH is excited to announce plans for NCH Healthcare Estero,” Dr. Allen Weiss, president and chief executive officer of NCH, said in a statement.
The NCH emergency department and outpatient imaging center will be on the first floor, and NCH Physician Group offices, an outpatient surgery and endoscopy center, will be on the second floor. Weiss said the physician offices will be staffed with six primary care and specialty physicians.
The Lee Health project is a 163,000 square-foot complex with an emergency room, imaging, outpatient surgery, diagnostics, a rehabilitation center, pharmacy and other services.
The complex is projected to see 50,000 patient visits the first year, with 10,000 patient visits in the ER alone.
“Lee Health has been working for a long time with the South Lee County community to expand medical services
and keep health care close to home,” Lee Health spokeswoman Mary Briggs said in a statement. “Lee Health is fully committed to a new, comprehensive outpatient medical village, which is scheduled to open in fall 2018.
Briggs said Lee Health-Coconut Point will be a health care destination that offers integrated medical and wellness services with an “unrivaled patient and family- friendly culture and experience that is unmistakable as soon as you enter the facility.”
NCH submitted its development order April 7 to the Village of Estero, said Walter McCarthy, development review manager. The review process can take two to three months. NCH officials are anxious to get started, he said. “They are ready to go,” McCarthy said.
The Estero complex will be similar to what’s offered at NCH Healthcare Northeast at Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard in North Naples, where there is a freestanding emergency department that NCH opened in 2015.
The practice model used there will be adopted for the Estero program.
“We are excited about building this new facility and are modeling it after NCH Healthcare Northeast, which offers similar services and sees approximately 17,000 patients annually in the free-standing emergency department,” NCH spokeswoman Debbie Curry said.
The outpatient imaging center at the planned Estero complex will provide ultrasound, digital X-ray, MRI and CT services. The outpatient surgery and endoscopy center will have two advanced surgical suites.