Ended a hectic government week on Friday by sitting down with my old friend Katie Myers to talk about the latest with Citrus Mem–...
Whoa, wait just a minute! No more Citrus Memorial Hospital?
Apparently not. HCA, which leases the hospital, renamed it along with all its other Florida hospitals to fit a consistent theme.
The hospital, which carried the name Citrus Memorial since it opened in 1957, is now HCA Florida Citrus Hospital.
Katie is in charge of public relations at HCA Florida Citrus. I've known her for many years — we’ll get to that in a minute — and she’s a first-ballot inductee into the Lindsay Blair PIO Hall of Fame. If I need something from Katie it’s fast, easy and simple to understand.
Sitting in Cattle Dogs brought back memories for us both and we laughed at having survived all of it.
This transition can’t pass without a little perspective.
Before the corporate names got involved, Citrus County had two hospitals: Seven Rivers and Citrus Memorial.
Both were birthed through community leaders who saw needs for health care services locally. In Inverness, it was banker George Brannen who, along with others, were able to open the doors to Citrus Memorial Hospital in 1957.
It was Citrus County’s only hospital for many years, partially supported by county property taxes. The tax ended with the lease.
On the west side, Pete DeRosa (the village north of Crystal River is named for him) and Dr. Carlos Gonzalez saw a similar need and opened Seven Rivers Community Hospital in 1978.
Now, I’m only going to talk about HCA Florida Citrus in detail because that’s the one I’m familiar with. Seven Rivers has changed hands more than once and is now Bravera Health Seven Rivers. Reviewing my memory, I don’t think I covered many of those Seven Rivers stories at the Chronicle.
Citrus Memorial — that’s another matter.
Unless you’re really into health care, hospital board of trustees meetings are hideously boring. I mean…just look at that last sentence. Any writing that includes “hospital board of trustees” is headed for snoozeville.
The Citrus Memorial Hospital fiasco started well before I was even on the beat and, now that I think about it, I’m wondering which editor I aggravated to the point where I got assigned this awful story.
Here’s all I’m going to say about it: If I’m never forced to write another Citrus County Hospital Board story in my life I’ll die happy.
Still, I thought it best to do some research for this blog. On the Chronicle website, I searched: “citrus memorial hospital CCHB lawsuit wright.” Up popped 148 stories and I bet that’s a fraction of what I really wrote. Frankly, it was all the research I needed. The less said about those days, the better.
So let’s dispense with the particulars — who was right, who was wrong, who was out to gyp the taxpayers, who wasn’t. The dispute lasted YEARS, cost millions of dollars in lawyer fees, caused deep resentment in the community — and had a happy ending!
Look at the result of the 2014 HCA lease: The company has pumped a ton of dough into the facility, and proceeds from the lease are being used to fund numerous community-based health services.
The reality is, despite its sincere efforts, there’s no way the taxpayer-supported hospital could have upgraded the facility in the way HCA has.
Katie is a holdover from the old days. That’s how we really met and became friends. I was covering those horrible hospital meetings and we chatted a lot.
When the HCA deal came down, Katie naturally wondered what her role would be. Well, happy to say, she’s still putting the hospital and its services front and center in Citrus County.
Citrus Memorial Hospital as we know it no longer exists. Buried with it, I hope, are those hard feelings on how we got here. We cannot move forward if stuck in past disputes.
HCA Florida Citrus Hospital, welcome to the community.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.