Hospital Turnaround?

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After two years of debts, few patients and a crumbling building, the Northwest Florida Community Hospital may have turned the corner. Late last year county commissioners leased the hospital to a new administration. It appears for now the county made the right move.

It's been seven months since Washington County commissioners approved a deal to lease Northwest Florida Community Hospital to its then CEO, Pat Schlenker. This, despite great controversy and the objection of two Washington County commissioners.

Controversy or not, Schlenker is celebrating an important recognition from the joint commission on accreditation of health care organizations also known as JAYCO. With only two recommendations for improvement, the independent organization noted the hospital to be among the nation's top quality hospitals.

"Everyone was jubilant. The hospital's gone through some very tough times in the last five years. That was a very nice highlight that tells everyone that we're hear to provide quality care for our community," says Pat Schlenker, a hospital administrator.

"Everybody's real excited about the direction that the hospital is headed, and the growth in the emergency department, and all the positive things that Mr. Schlenker is bringing into this hospital," says Dr. Gabe Barry, general surgeon.

Dr. Gabe Barry is a surgeon and the hospital's newest recruit. His specialty fits into Schlenker's plans to expand the hospital's services. Along those lines, the hospital's emergency room will soon be twice as large with many other services at a cost of $1.2 million.

The hospital is getting a facelift inside and out and opening a satellite clinic in Sunny Hills. Hospital officials say the predicted growth in the Panhandle can only mean good things for their business.