Emergency Service in Gulf County

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The EMS director along with Gulf County officials made the decision to stop taking patients to Gulf Pines Hospital in Port St. Joe. Instead, patients are taken to Bay County where both hospitals are brimming with patients.

Bay Medical Center is actually diverting all other out of town patients because of their current capacity. They have agreed to work with Gulf Coast Medical Center, who is also close to capacity, to handle patients coming from Gulf County, but Gulf Pines’ emergency room is still open and Hubert Steeley, the owner, wants to know why patients aren't being taken to the local hospital.

"The ER is open. We have physicians, we have physician assistants, we have x-ray technicians, lab professionals. We are fully functioning and available to patients through the ER and admit them into the hospital through the ER."

Gulf County officials are already moving forward with plans to replace Gulf Pines, saying it's better to plan ahead.

Jim McKnight, a member of the county's health care committee, says a change is inevitable.

"It's clear that this county needs a new hospital. To get that we've got to move forward with a number of well funded partners to develop what this community needs, a 21st century hospital."

Douglas Kent, also a board member and the director of the county's Health Department, says the new hospital should be completed in August of 2007.

"Our vision is for a viable small community hospital. Twenty five beds, a critical access hospital that is open 24-7 for the community."

County commissioners and committee members have been working for about a year to develop a new hospital and they've already done a lot of the legwork. They've picked the site, the medical provider and even sought financial support, but a new hospital would need a certificate of need issued by the state.

Right now, Gulf Pines has that certification.

"It certainly would be preferable not to have someone standing to contest it because even though the law may indicate you have the authority to come in without a con to build a new hospital, people could come in and challenge you in court."

For now, Gulf Pines Hospital remains the local hospital.