Northwest Florida Community Hospital Facing Big Changes

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Chipley- When Patrick Schlenker bought the common stock of Northwest Florida Community Hospital in 2003 and became president, he took on a massive, medical mess.

"The hospital was in very serious financial condition. In fact, it was probably very close to bankrupt" Schlenker said of the early years.

But the picture Schlenker painted of the hospital then, was a stark difference to where the hospital had grown to today.

Tuesday, hospital administrators, medical staff members and community leaders gathered for a cutting a ribbon to celebrate the grand opening of the hospital's new Specialty Center facility.

"It's a fantastic day! It's a dream come true no doubt" Schlenker said.

The hospital has made undoubted progress over the years, but would it be enough to sustain continued growth in the future? Schlenker didn't think so.

"Stand alone hospitals can no longer really function efficiently without being a part of a major system" he explained.

That's the reason Schlenker said he decided to transfer his portion of stock to Signature HealthCARE.

"The economies of scale a major system brings in procurement, quality- that's going to be a huge plus for us" Schlenker said.

Signature HealthCARE President, Joseph Steier attended Tuesday's ribbon cutting and shared with us some of future goals he had made for the hospital.

"We're hoping to lower the cost of health care in the community. Also, [we want to] try to get an EMR system so we're all on the same system from an electronic record system stand point. So then, we can see our health care in a more transparent way. Also, embrace the idea of consumerism so people in Washington County can see their health care as one thing instead of all these silo's" Steier explained.

Steier also told us he thought the transfer would not only increase patient care, but boost the area's economy as well.

"We just think people want to be close to good health care" he said. "And we think having the system put together, the way it's going to be in five to ten years, will hopefully increase population, increase some of the retail experiences, as well as effect the school children."

Schlenker said he would turn over his portion of stock on December 15, but would not be totally out the door. He said he would remain president until he retired next December. After retirement he told us he planned to serve on the Advisory and Governance board for another three years.

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