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A New Tradition in the Making

A new state-of-the-art medical facility makes its mark on the Treasure Coast.

Two years ago, Nianna Nadaskay had a serious scare. She and her husband, Victor, had finished dinner at The Brennity at Tradition, the independent/assisted living facility where they had moved from Palm “It was very scary, and only now after a couple years, I can look back without shuddering,” she says. “I didn’t know if I’d get to keep him.” An ambulance was called, and Victor was rushed to the nearest hospital, which was St. Lucie Medical Center. The ride was an excruciatingly long half hour in traffic across the St. Lucie River. The next day, as doctors determined he needed a pacemaker and defibrillator to help with his heart disease, the couple paid for another ambulance to transfer Victor to Martin Health System’s north campus, where his doctors were.

City nearly two years prior, and had just pressed the elevator button to return to their apartment when Victor passed out.

Then, last April, 80-year-old Victor had another scare with an irregular heartbeat and was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce. It was another long ambulance ride and another transfer for treatment.

But with Martin Health System’s new Tradition Medical Center that recently opened, medical care for the couple – and the thousands of other residents west of the river – is just minutes away.

“I don’t have to tell you how happy we are to see a hospital right down at the end of our street,” says Nianna, who is 78.

The Nadaskays aren’t alone. Beyond the fact that there is a hospital located in the heart of one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, Martin Health System is causing excitement with a design and focus on the latest in both medical research and maternal health.

“When you design a hospital, the objective is to determine what the community needs and try to meet that need,” says Rob Lord, the senior vice president for Martin Health System. “That’s our mission: to provide excellent health care to every patient every time.”

Right place, right design

The non-profit hospital team broke ground on the new facility in March 2012, but it took years of work before residents like the Nadaskays saw any progress.

It was actually back in the mid1990s when Martin Health System – known then as Martin Memorial Health Systems – started the process. They purchased property on St. Lucie West Boulevard (where the free-standing emergency service facility is currently located) and applied to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration for what is known as a “Certificate of Need,” a complex document that determines the size and location of new hospitals.

Not surprisingly, the other St. Lucie County hospitals objected to their application, and years passed as negotiations continued. But when the Tradition Center for Innovation was created, Martin Health representatives saw an opportunity and changed their request to land off Gatlin Boulevard. “The residents that were living west of the north fork of the St. Lucie [River] had an access problem.

The only way for fire rescue to bring them to a hospital was to cross one of two bridges or go north to Lawnwood,” Lord says. “This is one of the fastest-growing areas in the U.S.”

In part because of Martin Health System’s history of medication research and the willingness of the new scientific businesses to partner, the state granted the Certificate of Need, and work on the $130 million hospital quickly began.

For the third campus of Martin Health System, with a 90-bed capacity, it includes a neonatal intensive care unit, a labor and delivery unit, medical surgery beds and general hospital beds. Also on the 20-acre campus are 27 emergency exam rooms, imaging facilities for state-of-the-art diagnostics and an adjoining 40,000-square-foot medical office building, the latter of which Martin Health shares with the research companies already stationed in the Tradition Center for Innovation.

All this will eventually result in 500 new jobs for the region, not counting doctors and advanced registered nurse practitioners, with an average salary of $52,000 a year, Lord says.

Innovative family-centered treatment

By far, the most exciting part of the new hospital for Beth Hawn, Martin Health’s director of maternalchild services, is located on the fifth floor.

There, the Tradition Medical Center features a new innovation in obstetrics that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the Treasure Coast. Unlike most maternal-child wings, this one features a family-centered design that will likely be very welcome to all generations.

Instead of having separate rooms for delivery, post-partum recovery and healing, each mother has the benefit of a single private room for all phases of her labor and delivery.

“There’s no more moving the patient,” Hawn says. “The nurse takes care of the entire family unit. We’ve had a lot of people involved in the design of the room.”

Each of the 14 labor-and-delivery rooms is equally large, with nice views, refrigerators and sleeper sofas for those staying over. The crib and baby warmer, where the newborn is laid down during the initial check-up after birth, is located at the head of the mother’s bed – instead of the foot of the bed – so she can constantly check on her baby. There are even Jacuzzi tubs to help with pain management during labor.

While there are no maternal-child facilities at the southern Martin Health System campus, at the northern campus they perform about 1,700 births each year. With the blossoming young families in western St. Lucie County, they are expecting about 1,200 deliveries each year in the new facility.

But if the baby is premature, the family benefits from even more special services. Also for the first time in the region, there is a level-two neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, for babies born at 30 weeks or later, with private rooms for the whole family. In most hospitals, the NICU is a nursery in one big room. At Tradition, mothers and fathers are able to stay in the same room as their baby.

Each family has a private room, a design shown to foster confidence in the parents to care for their child.

“It promotes bonding and family involvement,” Hawn says. “The family is not just a visitor anymore. It’s their baby, and they have the right to be there as often as they want to. It’s all about involving them.”

Discovering new treatments for patients

In the adjoining medical office, there are outpatient services for new moms – but a lot more, too.

Because of the hospital’s location within the Tradition Center for Innovation, it is uniquely positioned to partner with researchers from the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, Mann Research Center and the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida.

Those companies – like Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center, which Martin Health System has been partnering with for more than a decade to facilitate medical research nationally – will be able to work with the hospital to perform volunteer clinical studies on willing patients to determine effectiveness of emerging treatments.

“It’s more the ability to monitor and administer extremely carefully this new treatment, monitor progress and success of the therapy and document that extremely carefully with extreme precision,” Lord says. “Most of that occurs in a university setting throughout the country, but working in a hospital setting, we think that will improve the efficiency of research nationally.”

Of course, the new hospital will also attract new businesses to the area, as well. Already, doctors are looking to open new offices near the nearly complete facility; restaurants and other companies in the medical field are likely to follow.

“It is an engine that tends to have development arise around it,” Lord says. “We’re very proud to be a part of this, given the challenges people are sharing over the last several years.”

And as the economy continues to rebound – and more homes are built in western St. Lucie County – Martin Health System is ready. The design for the hospital, which was limited in size by the Certificate of Need, contains the ability to expand by 200 beds by adding on three more floors to the existing tower. The expansion may happen sooner rather than later, Lord says, thanks in part to the tax-exempt bond financing and generous philanthropic community that helped support the original construction project.

That’s wonderful news for Nianna Nadaskay, who is also a retired registered nurse. Having a facility that is both convenient and will help improve medical treatments for years to come is reassuring, she says.

“Why do you think people are living so much longer? They can do things they never could do before,” she says. “We understand our mortality. We don’t expect to leave here alive. That’s the beauty of being situated here.”

Living just minutes from a state-of-the-art hospital, she says, makes it easier for them to continue enjoying their golden years taking trips, reading books and spending time with family.