Prominent Doctor's House Call Has Financially Troubled Hospital Mending

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It's just what the Dr. ordered for Gulf Pines Hospital. A new owner to pump financial life back into the Port St. Joe medical center.

Employees are starting to receive lost pay, people are being hired and after once seeking bankruptcy, Gulf Pines is now part of owner orthopedic surgeon Dr. Alfred Bonati's worldwide spine care centers.

"We felt this was an excellent community," says Gulf Pines Spokesperson Pete O'Shea. "It's an up and coming community here in Port St. Joe and we feel that the people here really have a need."

A year ago, residents feared Gulf Pines would close. Now, "We can bring our kids here, I think it's great," says Samantha Robison. "We won't have to ride that far and it's bringing a lot more jobs too."

Driving to Panama City in Bay County was a concern for those in the Gulf County city until the financial rebound of Gulf Pines took place. "It takes 45 minutes to get to Panama City and then you have a long wait at the hospital," says Port St. Joe resident Rebecca Needham. "It takes about maybe an half-hour at the most to be treated here at Gulf Pines."

Under new leadership and ownership, there are more medical services available at Gulf Pines and there are plans to expand the hospital and add specialty services. "We intend to have physical therapy and bring in other specialties like cardiology," says O'Shea. "Also, 24 hour emergency room service will be available as soon as possible."

Dr. Bonati's arrival is attracting out-of-town patients who are putting money into Port St. Joe's economy. "They eat at the restaurants, stay in the motels and go shopping," says Dr. Bonati. "Gulf Pines is now a positive for the local economy."

Patients from Clearwater and Tampa, Florida are at Gulf Pines for treatment and surgery. "He (Dr. Bonati) came here, so I'm here because of him," says Glenn Bongers of Clearwater. Out-of-state patients can also be found at the hospital on a particular day.

$3.8 million is the reported selling price for Gulf Pines Hospital which is maintaining priceless health care for local residents.

Dr. Bonati also plans to open a new state-of-the-art 100-bed hospital in the Port St. Joe area. Gulf Pines is a 45-bed facility.