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From a signature village on Florida’s Gulf coast to today’s cosmopolitan community, Naples has experienced the NCH Healthcare System evolving from a 1940s grassroots beginning to a nationally-recognized organization of more than 3,700 team members in two hospitals and medical facilities at dozens of locations throughout Southwest Florida.
775 NCH-affiliated physicians care for patients who visit NCH’s two hospitals offering 715 beds approximately 39,000 times each year; approximately 3,600 births are recorded annually; 11,736 surgeries are performed; and NCH’s round-the-clock emergency rooms help patients approximately 111,000 times annually.
Among the Naples community’s first efforts to establish a hospital was in 1949 when it looked to raise funds for construction. While that effort fell short for the 1,465 living in Naples at the time, in less than four years the hospital was incorporated with its founding in 1953 and chartered two years later on Nov. 11, 1955. A 50-bed facility opened to much community fanfare on March 7, 1956.
Fast forwarding through the decades:
The community’s efforts and the hospital team including physicians and staff have earned dozens of quality awards and the notice from HealthGrades, the nation’s leading independent healthcare quality rating services, as one of the top 5-percent of hospital systems in the nation for overall clinical excellence for seven consecutive years.
The history of NCH begins in a quiet town and today sees almost 400 open heart surgeries annually.
An effort in 1949 sought $40,000 for a clinic, but the plan was abandoned after only $20,000 was raised.
In 1952 things began to change, with the effort focusing on a 25-bed hospital. The effort brought incorporation in April 1953 for Naples Memorial Hospital as a non-profit organization.
Ten citizens pledged to underwrite $250,000 for the hospital – half of what was needed. A renewed effort from the 1949 plan for community funds put the project past its goal in 1954.
Groundbreaking on the first building was held Dec. 21, 1954 and the name changed to Naples Community Hospital in November 1955.
The hospital was dedicated in a community ceremony on March 4, 1956, and opened its doors three days later on March 7, 1956, to its first patient, 6-year-old Evelyn Hall, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Hall. The attending physician was Dr. William Bailey to repair stitches in her eyelid that she had received after running into a wire fence.
In a special “Hospital Edition” after years of coverage of the attempt to establish such a medical facility, the Collier County News, which would become the Naples Daily News, bannered the headline: “New Hospital A Naples Triumph.”
It wasn’t long before growth became a key word in every Neapolitan’s vocabulary.
In 1963, the “Space Program” was instituted in the spring to raise funds for an expansion of the hospital. In all, $1.7 million would be raised for a new laboratory, X-ray and physical therapy department, and an emergency room.
As an interim help with demands on the hospital, the Board of Trustees approved construction of an addition and groundbreaking on the building took place in July 1963 and it opened to patients on Jan. 6, 1964. NCH’s bed capacity was raised to 62.
The NCH “Space Program” expansion saw its groundbreaking on March 7, 1965, nine years and two days after the hospital’s opening. At the time it was the biggest construction job in Collier County history.
Construction on the expansion project was completed in 1966 and the new facilities opened in December with NCH then having 116 beds. In the next year, by December 1967, NCH was running at full patient capacity and the Board of Trustees began finalizing plans for the next expansion of 50 additional beds and shells for additional floors for future expansions.
May 1969 saw construction begin for NCH’s Special Care Wing. It was the year that the Dual Progress Program was launched to develop financial support for upgrading technical facilities and another bed expansion. The new section would include an intensive care unit, cardiac care unit and progressive care unit. More than $3 million was raised in this effort.
The Special Care Wing with its 26 beds opened in January 1970. Also in 1970, a $2.2 million second phase of the Dual Progress Program started construction on an expansion to six floors of the hospital. On Jan. 27, 1971, a third-floor medical-surgical wing opened with 50 beds. With the latest expansion, NCH’s total bed count reached 191 then to 300 with the opening of the North Tower.
Later in the 1970s, a $16.5 million fundraising effort brought in funds for the new six-story South Tower and expansion of the laboratory, surgical suites and physical and respiratory therapy areas.
The expansion of the South Tower and the environmental services building were completed in 1980 and bed expansion passed the 400-bed mark.
The days of being a purely “downtown” hospital ended with NCH’s development of the North Collier Health Center, a round-the-clock satellite of NCH that opened on Oct. 15, 1984. The operation offered emergent and primary care to northern Collier County and south Lee County.
On Feb. 4, 1985, the Marco Island Urgent Care Center opened under NCH management. A variety of services for minor illnesses and injuries were offered to the island community.
The ongoing expansion of NCH saw the completion in 1986 of the then-current downtown program that included the demolition of the original NCH building and work continued into 1987 for refurbishing of such components as a supply department and the main lobby.
Space leased to Naples Day Surgery in 1986 brought the first helicopter landing pad to the NCH campus, thereby reducing critical care time. Previously, medical flights had to land at such locations as vacant property next to the downtown library branch (several blocks south of NCH) and then transportation via ambulance to the hospital.
The 1990s opened with NCH becoming a two-hospital system. The North Collier Hospital opened in January with a 50-bed, full service acute-care facility. The expansion was planned to meet the growing needs of northern Collier County and southern Lee County residents. It was a complete hospital with obstetrics, 36 medical-surgical beds and six intensive care beds. Other services included scanning, endoscopy, nuclear medicine, respiratory therapy, radiology, ultrasound and a medical laboratory.
Responding to the need to expand outpatient services in 1994, North Collier Hospital added a 30,000-square-foot outpatient wing, including a new emergency department.
1996 WAS A BUSY YEAR
In late 1996, NCH consolidated its obstetrical and newborn services at the North Collier campus. This wing was named "The BirthPlace" and offered triage bays and a dozen labor, delivery and recovery rooms. Today, the General David H. and Shirley A. Baker Women’s & Children's Pavilion houses all obstetrical, and newborn services.
In late 1996, NCH expanded its cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program to North Collier Hospital.
One of the biggest pieces of news since the founding of NCH in the 1950s was the opening of the Shick Heart Center in October 1996. The cardiac care center’s services meant that patients no longer had to leave Collier County for coronary bypass or repair procedures. Today NCH performs more than 400 open-heart surgeries each year and has become a top-ranked destination for cardiac excellence in Florida.
Two of the newer features of the NCH Baker Hospital Downtown campus are the Briggs Health Pavilion, which opened in November 2006, and the Garden of Hope and Courage which offers a beautiful place of respite and calm for NCH patients, caregivers, and staff and made its debut in October 2006. The Briggs Health Pavilion gives NCH a signature building on the corner of Fourth Avenue North and U.S. 41. This building contains a state-of-the-art Briggs Wellness Center along with cardiac rehabilitation, physical/occupational/speech rehabilitation and the von Arx Diabetes and Nutrition Center.
NCH continued changing the face of cardiac care in Southwest Florida with the opening of The Naples Heart Institute in November 2011. In 2013, this medical team which specializes in the management of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular disease in one convenient location became part of the comprehensive cardiac service line known as The NCH Heart Institute.
NCH’s North Naples Hospital campus is home today to the Jay & Patty Baker Patient Care Tower, The BirthPlace, the Robert and Mariann MacDonald SeaCAREium Pediatric Unit, and the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Rehabilitation.
In October 2010, the NCH Healthcare System welcomed 53 physicians and 300 colleagues from the Anchor Health Centers. These practices are now part of the growing NCH Physician Group. The NCH Physician Group has become one of the largest medical groups in the area with over 90 providers practicing in over 17 different locations throughout southwest Florida.
In August 2012, the NCH Healthcare System became a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. NCH is the first member of the network in Florida and the Southeast region of the United States.
The Mayo Clinic Care Network extends Mayo Clinic’s knowledge and expertise to physicians and providers interested in working together in the best interest of their patients. NCH’s physicians will have access to Mayo Clinic, including the ability to collaborate with Mayo Clinic physicians on patient care, community health, and innovative health care delivery. The Mayo Clinic Care Network represents non-ownership relationships. The network’s primary goal is to help people gain the benefits of Mayo Clinic expertise close to home, ensuring that patients travel outside the region only when necessary.
In October 2014, NCH hosted a community forum that introduced the Blue Zones Project to southwest Florida. The Blue Zones Project is a community-wide initiative designed to make healthy choices easier. It encourages sustainable changes in our built environment and social networks, often suggesting policy changes involving worksites, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and neighborhoods. NCH is pleased to help our community on this decade-long journey of helping people live longer and better through behavior change.
NCH Healthcare Northeast, the first free-standing Emergency Department in Collier and Lee Counties opened in November 2015. This two-story, 40,000 square foot building, located on the corner of Collier Blvd. and Immokalee Road provides full service 24/7 emergency care with ambulance entrance, outpatient imaging services, and primary care offices to the rapidly growing northeast section of Collier County.
Phase me and II of the NCH North Naples Hospital Emergency Department renovation, including a new acute care services area and a “lean track” for patients in need of treatment for minor issues was completed in summer 2015. Phase III, the Robert, Mariann and Megan MacDonald Pediatric Emergency Department opened and began caring for our littlest patients in March 2016. This is the first and only Pediatric Emergency Department in Collier County.
In 2016 the NCH Healthcare System achieved accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to offer an Internal Medicine Residency Program and begin interviewing medical school seniors for positions in the Internal Medicine Residency Program. In March 2017, twelve highly-qualified students were “matched” with NCH and began planning for their Residency which begins July 2017.
The NCH Healthcare System Internal Medicine Residency Program’s affiliation with Mayo Clinic College of Medicine provides for additional expertise and guidance in virtually every area of medical education. Upon completion of the program, residents will have had exposure and education in all aspects of ambulatory and inpatient medicine.
The NCH Healthcare System expanded Imaging Services in January 2017 by acquiring Naples Diagnostic Imaging Center (NDIC) facilities to create the largest outpatient imaging service in Collier County. This expanded new entity is called NCH Imaging. NCH Imaging offers six locations throughout Collier County. A dedicated team of 10 full-time on-site radiologists and more than 20 fellowship-trained radiologists have provided quality radiology services for NCH since 2011.