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Clinic holds first webinar of season, discusses updated potential renovation

Reprinted with permission. BY MARCY SHORTUSE, Boca Beacon

There was a lot of information to cover at the first Boca Grande Health Clinic “Welcome Back to the Island” webinar” on Thursday, Oct. 26. The doctors spoke about updates at the Clinic in technology, numbers and vaccinations. Fire Chief C.W.

Blosser discussed emergency medical information and varying levels of emergency care. But the most intriguing part of the presentation was made by Clinic Executive Director Mark Driscoll and others, discussing their newest plan for the second renovation proposal that will go before Lee County and the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board in the future.

After their initial plan was denied by the Historic Preservation Board in May of last year by a unanimous vote, Driscoll said the Clinic Foundation members have been listening to the people of the island, as have been the doctors. They’ve heard many comments, such as that the building was too big, there were too many entrances and exits, they didn’t like the windows and that there would be parking problems with a bigger facility.

After gathering information since the meeting last year, Driscoll said they sat down with a project team made up of national expert architect and engineers, as well as their project manager.

“We know we need more space, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Driscoll said. “One thing we do know is that there is a physician shortage in this country and it’s getting worse, especially in primary care.”

Driscoll said this to emphasize the importance of medical care on a local level. Having a facility equipped to deal with many issues, not to mention the ability to perform many tests and imaging, is invaluable now for the island’s population … and will be even more valuable in the future.

Driscoll said the project team has come up with a plan that takes the existing space and maximizes it for clinical care, which means less space is needed in the new, proposed facility. Minimizing the footprint is what the new plan is all about.

Driscoll said they have put their applications in with the county (the county had actually approved the first plan, even when the Historic Board did not), and the “question-and-answer” period has begun. As far as getting the information of the proposal to the public, not only will they be presenting again to the Historic Board at some time in the future, they will have a section on their web site with detailed options to tour the proposed facility. It hasn’t been set up yet, but Driscoll said they will let people know as soon as it is.

“Another key for this new facility is a softer, more residential look,” he said. “The profile has been lowered, entrances and exits have been minimized, we will be using pavers around the building and on the street crosswalks if allowed – like the ones that The Inn and Boca Bay have used – and we will be putting mature trees and bushes in. We want it to look like it’s been there all along.”

The renderings shown attest to the fact that the new proposal looks more “cottage” and less “clinic.”

Another noticeable difference in the plan is that the height has been dropped from 38 feet to 31 feet.

An “aquawall” will also be installed (to prevent the building from being flooded) and the square footage has dropped from 13,000 to 11,000 square feet.

The first floor of the new building would be used for urgent care and same-day services and would include three negative pressure rooms. That gives Clinic workers the ability to clean and sterilize rooms in a rapid fashion. The second floor would be for teleheath and would also contain three other pods – two for primary care and one for urgent care. Driscoll said this is optimal for more separation of sick and well patients.

The original clinic, or “North Building,” would be used for physical therapy and a rehabilitation area. The Clinic Foundation would move there as well.

Both the new and old buildings would hold space for visiting specialists, as they have done in the past.

Driscoll also explained that, contrary to rumors, there will be no MRI facility on premises, but there will be X-ray, CT and ultrasound imaging available.

“In theory, by Christmas of 2026 this project could be done,” Driscoll said.

“When I came here we had a five-year plan in place. We continue to build on those building blocks. I’m very excited about that.”

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