Medical industry surging in The Villages
By DAVID R. CORDER, DAILY SUN
THE VILLAGES — During the past year, The Villages medical community experienced a surge in growth that shows no sign of abating.
No fewer than two dozen health care practices of all kinds either expanded or opened new offices to serve the community’s still-growing population.
This is an exciting time for The Villages health care industry and its patients, said Nelson Kraucak, M.D., who has seen the dramatic evolution of the local medical community since opening his family medicine practice about 15 years ago.
“It is very exciting,” said Kraucak, managing physician of Life Family Practice Center and an affiliate of the community’s Villa Medical Group. “This is an oasis. What’s happening here is not happening anywhere else I know of.”
Several new practices have either opened or intend to open in the Sharon L. Morse Medical Building on The Villages Regional Hospital campus.
Recently, longtime alternative-medicine practitioner Mulberry Oriental Medicine added a second office and expanded into the Morse building in partnership with Douglas Hall, M.D. Hall specializes in gynecology and functional or evidence-based natural medicine.
In the coming weeks, neurologist Alexander Smirnoff, M.D., plans to open a new medical practice in the Morse building. He is relocating a practice from Northport/Tuscaloosa, Ala., which treats patients diagnosed with brain disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, ALS, headaches, peripheral nerve issues, spinal cord compression and other diseases.
Nearby in Spanish Springs Town Square, two medical practices recently opened.
Florida Cardiology opened earlier this year on the second floor near the Citizens First Bank branch.
The cardiology practice, which relocated from Summerfield, offers nuclear stress testing, cardiac and vascular ultrasound, a pacemaker clinic, advanced lipid testing, diagnostic and interventional cardiac and peripheral vascular procedures and more.
In Spanish Springs’ La Reina Building, Tampa’s Laser Spine Institute recently opened a new practice.
The Laser Spine Institute, which relocated its Lady Lake office, specializes in endoscopic spinal procedures. It uses laser-assisted techniques for the treatment of spinal conditions such as sciatica, pinched nerves, degenerative disk disease, arthritis, herniated disks, bone spurs and more.
Most of this medical growth emerged around The Villages Regional Hospital.
In nearby Santa Barbara Professional Plaza, three physician groups expanded and relocated their medical practices.
Davis Clinic of Chiropractic and Tri-County Podiatry joined in a partnership to open a 10,000-square-foot medical building last summer in Santa Barbara.
Across the street, Premier Medical Associates opened a similar-size building in December for a multifaceted practice that includes internal medicine, diabetology and endocrinology, urgent care, sleep-disorder diagnoses, cardiovascular-stress testing, CT and X-ray medial imaging, on-site laboratory and more.
Patient demand for sophisticated medical services even has the Central Florida Health Alliance, parent of The Villages hospital, looking at its future options.
“The development of hospital-based medical services in The Villages from our perspective is driven primarily by two factors — ongoing growth of population in The Villages and its surrounding areas and the maturing of the hospital’s services to meet the present and future needs of the residents in The Villages,”said Lee Huntley, Health Alliance president and chief executive officer.
In light of that trend, Huntley said, The Villages hospital also has identified ongoing needs for expanded preventive and acute health care services to provide even higher quality patient
“We don’t want area residents to have to leave their community unless the services they require cannot be safely or reasonably provided at the hospital or by one of our partners,” Huntley said. “We are working hard to create the connectivity with great area physicians and other health care providers, including long-term and outpatient care to ultimately provide a seamless continuum of preventive and health care services to best serve Villagers.”
The proof of the medical growth also is apparent in Lake Sumter Landing Market Square.
Lake Sumter Landing Professional Plaza, a 64,000-square-foot medical center, is nearly built out.
To handle future growth, The Villages is developing a new medical center — Creekside Medical Center of Excellence at Lake Sumter Landing.
Once completed, Creekside Medical Center will contain about 80,000 square feet of leasable square footage, said Scott Renick, The Villages commercial and leasing director.
Patient demand for medical services accounts for The Villages’ decision to move forward on the project, even in current economic conditions, Renick said.
“When you look at the size of our population and the uniqueness in the age and activity level of our demographic, we’ve got a lot higher need for all medical specialties than areas of comparable size,” Renick said. “And our folks are saying they want to be able to get to all their physicians via golf cart.”
15 years ago
Just 15 years ago, however, nothing but pasture land existed where the now-functioning medical centers exist, Kraucak said.
“When I came here and saw the potential, I knew this was going to be big at that time,” Kraucak said. “That’s why I decided to stay in this area. I saw it explode and expand at a tremendous rate. It’s been nonstop ever since.”
Such growth potential explained why Kraucak’s affiliate, the Villa Medical Group, expanded last year. It not only added urgent care to its offices in the Buenos Aires Professional Plaza but opened new offices in the Southern Trace Professional Plaza, as well.
“I’ve been very impressed with the growth,” Kraucak said. “When I came here 15 years ago, specifically to serve The Villages, there were only three internal medicine providers. Within two months of arriving, I had a full practice. I’ve maintained that ever since. Demand for quality care here is very high. And there is going to be further growth.”
David R. Corder is a reporter with the Daily Sun. He can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 9066, or at david.corder @thevillagesmedia.com.