What does it mean to live in a great community? I think all of us could answer this question with some similarities but also with some differences. For many, access to good schools and institutions of higher learning would be paramount. For others, a broad and diverse economy that provides opportunities for job growth and competitive wages. No doubt for some recreational activities and entertainment would be the hallmark of a great community. Housing choices, restaurants, the arts, etc. would all be components of most lists of what makes a great community. One item that would surely make every list is innovative, comprehensive healthcare. While I would argue (who would be surprised) that Ocala meets the mark on all of these aforementioned items, it is perhaps on this last one on which it is excels.
We have an incredible healthcare community in the Ocala Metro. The continual investment by HCA Florida and AdventHealth in their hospitals here is truly amazing. HCA Florida has been investing something like $200,000 a day, every day for more than five years in growing and expanding their facilities and services at HCA Ocala and HCA West Marion. That equates to more than $365 million! AdventHealth is aggressively investing in their facilities with the new Belleview ER and the soon to be completed Heath Brook Care Pavilion. Encompass Health has expanded their hospital several times since it opened 10 years ago and UF Health will soon begin construction on a new “neighborhood” hospital at US 27 and I-75 next to the Ocala-Marion County Commerce Park. We often joke at the CEP that every month we are doing either a ground-breaking or a ribbon cutting for one of our primary healthcare partners!
But this incredible growth is not limited to the hospitals. Drive around our community and you will immediately begin to notice the investment being made by new and expanding physician groups with new offices and support facilities. The medical professionals in our community are not only neighbors, but they are world-class providers of care.
The College of Central Florida will break ground in the not distant future on a new state-of-the-art Health Sciences Center. This facility will not only increase their capacity to train new nurses but to expand into other allied health occupations. Rasmussen University-Ocala has the largest nursing program in their system and Marion Technical College trains an array of future healthcare related professionals.
Most importantly, healthcare in our community has matured to the point that besides transplant services or experimental services, the care you need can be obtained here at advanced facilities providing leading-edge care. More personally, as a husband, father, and now grandfather, knowing that those I love can receive vital care without ever leaving our home is beyond important. To me, this fact is what truly makes our community great.