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Bayfront Health St. Petersburg’s new leaders say they will strengthen historic community ties

Margie Manning

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Bayfront President John Moore (left) talking with staf members.

One top goal of the new leaders at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg will be to build on the hospital’s legacy in the community.

Additional goals are enhanced quality, expanded services and an improved physical plant, John Moore, president, and LaTasha Barnes, chief financial officer, said at a meeting of the Downtown St. Petersburg Partnership.

LaTasha Barnes

“The connection with the community historically has been very important for Bayfront. We want to reframe who we are in the community back to what you all know it is and can be. We want to enhance what already exists and bring back that love and stature in the community. That’s where we want to make sure we are making an impactful difference here,” Barnes said.

The Tuesday afternoon meeting was one of the first public appearances by Moore and Barnes since Orlando Health bought Bayfront Health St. Petersburg in a deal that closed Sept. 30.

Bayfront, a 114-year-old hospital just south of downtown St. Petersburg, historically had a tradition of serving the poor as a nonprofit organization. Many observers said that tradition changed when it was bought by a publicly traded hospital company in 2013 and then sold to another public hospital company, Community Health Systems (NYSE: CYH). Community Health Systems owned Bayfront until the Sept. 30 sale.

Orlando Health is a nonprofit and that will be a key difference between the old and new ownership, Moore said.

“The funds generated here don’t go to a group stockholders or to Orlando to be invested in Orlando. They are invested here in Bayfront Health. As we grow the organization and create opportunities to generate revenue, that revenue exceeding the expenses is put back into providing the community with enhanced health care,” Moore said. “That’s the No. 1 difference. The funds that are generated here are reinvested here.”

Just 27 days into their new roles at the hospital, Moore and Barnes, who are both veterans of Orlando Health, said they’ve been busy with listening tours, asking each Bayfront team member what they are most proud of in the organization and where the hospital should focus its efforts going forward.

The hospital is investing “substantially” in equipment, initially with a focus on patient safety, then equipment that needs to be replaced and equipment that will help the hospital grow its business by offering new or expanded services, Moore said.

Workforce also is top of mind, and Moore said he wants to work closely with both St. Petersburg College and University of South Florida on the healthcare programs they offer.

Orlando Health began doing community health assessments in central Florida about 10 years ago, and that will be rolled out in St. Petersburg as well.

“One of the areas we want to be sure we are focused on is understanding what are the needs in the community, from a health and wellness standpoint and from a general overall community standpoint, what’s important to the members of this community,” Barnes said.

The community health assessment will be conducted regionally, likely in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, Moore said.

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg is a regional hospital, the only trauma center in Pinellas County, with a regional perinatal intensive care unit and services such as orthopedic and cardiac care, Moore said.

The ownership change occurred in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Orlando Health has been very proactive in Central Florida in dealing with the pandemic and will be in St. Petersburg as well, including data analysis that is important for planning, Moore said.

“Coming into this environment, one thing we heard clearly and we took care of day one was making sure we had the appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment] available, and at very high levels for team members and medical staff. We took care of that day one and that is no longer an issue within this organization,” Moore said. “Going forward, it’s about planning and being able to have appropriate testing, both the longer-term tests and short-term tests, to allow us to continue to provide surgical services, et cetera, in a safe environment.”

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