North Walton Doctors Hospital gearing up, aiming for March opening

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The Herald – Breeze spoke with Scott Lunato BSN, CNOR, PLNC, and Chief Operating Officer of North Walton Doctors Hospital on Jan. 18. Lunato discussed the plans and projected opening date of the new hospital. They are making major renovations and have bought all new equipment for the hospital, as the state pf Florida looks at them as a brand-new hospital. They are not grandfathered in and must comply with all the codes and requirements. Lunato expressed hopes they will be able to open in March. There are currently people working on the hospital 10 hours a day, seven says a week. They started working in November and they did not expect that this much work needed to be done. They passed their Stage 2 standup with AHCA (Florida Agency for Health Care Administration) which is responsible for Medicaid. 

Lunato said that they are bringing in an all star cast of doctors, including an ER group that can handle anything, any trauma. They have purchased millions of dollars of technology, and while it is a small hospital, patients will get big hospital care here. There will be a full-functioning ER, double the size that it was before. The lab is brand new; they gutted the old space and brought in all new automated equipment to get faster results. For radiology needs, they bought a very high-speed MRI machine, high speed CT machine, ultrasound machine, and will be able to do cardiac imaging here. 

Regarding funding, Lunato said this is privately owned by physicians and a few community members that have all put up funds. Part is financed as well. 

For patients who have to stay longer than three days – such as those needing an ICU –  they have a transfer agreement with North Okaloosa and Bonifay. If someone needs longer care than can be done in three days, they will transport them to either of these locations, and will transport to Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital if desired. They feel this is a perfect spot for a hospital, and will do all they need to do to have a safe and competently run hospital. 

A social media campaign is underway to try to counter any possible stigma from the former hospital. They want people to know they are not affiliated with the former hospital. They are even partnering with an executive chef who will open a café/restaurant. 

Features will include a full emergency room, operating room, lab, and clinic across the way, a a primary care walk-in clinic, as well as some specialists: pain specialist, wound specialist, orthopedics. They will have spine surgeons, and will be able to do joint replacements; not will not be necessary to go to Crestview for those procedures. 

Lunato also said he is working on finding a urologist and a podiatrist, and is looking for a pulmonologist for a one day a week clinic. They have not yet completed their list of physicians. He added that they would listen to the public, and if they see a need for a particular doctor they will try to get them in here. They will also have a cardiologist group. 

The old MRI on premises was past its working lifespan and will have to be removed, which will require cutting a hole in the wall to get it out. It weighs about 30,000 pounds. 

They did not add on to the building, but did move some walls around. Lunato noted that every single bathroom (about 40 in all) had to be made Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Firewalls had to be put in around the entire perimeter of the hospital along with blown in insulation. 

One of the new pieces of equipment is a Stryker Mako. It is robotic-arm assisted surgery primarily for hips and knees. 

The Stryker Mako robot sells for $1.25 million for the robot itself, and an added $100,000 service contract is needed every year as well. The robot also uses $1,000 in extra disposable equipment for each case. The cost of the actual implant varies; however, typically the purchase price tag is around $5,500.(ref: https://hip-replacement.info/how-much-does-minimally-invasive-and-robotic-hip-replacement-surgery-cost/#:~:text=The%20Stryker%20Mako%20robot%20sells,price%20tag%20is%20around%20%245%2C500.) 

The lab is equipped with a new Vitros 5600, among other features.  It covers 90% of the menu needs and 99% of the testing volume of a typical lab. (ref.https://www.orthoclinicaldiagnostics.com/en-MEA/home/vitros-5600)