Building bridges

UF Health Shands and Central Florida Health enter into affiliation agreement

By Melanie Fridl Ross

The University of Florida Health Shands hospital system and Central Florida Health have entered into an affiliation agreement to collaborate on new health initiatives that will expand access to leading-edge patient care programs and clinical studies for residents of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties.

Together, hospital officials will be exploring the creation of primary care physician training opportunities at Central Florida Health’s Leesburg Regional Medical Center and The Villages® Regional Hospital. The demand for primary care physicians is increasing as the region’s population quickly grows, and doctors tend to establish their practices close to where they complete their training. Growing the physician workforce also provides added economic benefits to the local community — and throughout the state.

“We share a common set of values across our missions,” said Ed Jimenez, chief executive officer of UF Health Shands, part of UF Health, the University of Florida’s academic health center. “We are looking forward to working together as we collectively seek to provide the highest-quality, most compassionate care possible, with superior outcomes for the patients we both serve. We also are excited about exploring new opportunities related to our community service, medical education and research activities.”

UF Health already works with Central Florida Health to provide comprehensive stroke care to their patients when needed, offering timely access to the latest technology and the most advanced treatments available. UF Health physicians accept transfer patients from Central Florida Health facilities 24/7 and provide around-the-clock access to consults with a vascular neurologist regarding treatment plans and decisions related to administration of the clot-busting drug tPA for patients who remain in the local area. UF Health also provides educational opportunities, including continuing medical education about the latest in stroke care.

“This affiliation is an acknowledgment of the great care we already offer, and a means to find ways of coordinating care for patients from our local community who have especially complex medical problems we don’t typically treat,” said Don Henderson, president and CEO of Central Florida Health. “It is important for us to work with a comprehensive academic health center like UF Health, because it affords us the ability to continually offer our patients the latest medical breakthroughs.”

UF Health and Central Florida Health will work to further define their relationship over the next several months, and will meet regularly to define agreements on a variety of clinical, research and educational services that will benefit the local community. Officials also will discuss establishing common approaches to quality of care and safety initiatives.

“Each of our organizations has a well-deserved reputation as a health resource for the region. This relationship is about adding health care treatment options for the area’s residents,” Jimenez added. “Our discussions are centering on how we can combine our talents and resources to better address challenges facing the health care industry and improve the coordination of care to overcome barriers patients face in accessing the help they need.”