TAMPA — The economic impact of health care businesses is surging, with nearly 100,000 employees currently working in the Tampa metro area.
A growing population and the trend toward branching out from hospital campuses into the more lucrative volume-driven centers for specialty care, urgent care and preventive care are creating millions of dollars in construction. Health-related businesses have hired hundreds more employees to keep up with the growth.
Education and health services now account for 16 percent of major industry employment in Hillsborough County, compared to 18 percent for professional and business services, according to the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.
Education and health services jobs increased 13 percent with a gain of 22,700 in the past five years.
“When you look at the sheer number of employees they have and the creative ways they are going about providing health care to our community,” those businesses are funneling plenty back into the economy, said J.P. DuBuque, interim president and CEO for the EDC.
Such health-related companies also play a big role in recruiting growing companies here, said EDC spokeswoman Michelle Bauer. “The life sciences industry is really key,” she said. “Everything that is happening in terms of growth of (Tampa Bay Lightning owner) Jeff Vinik’s development downtown and its proximity to Tampa General Hospital is a key driver. It helps us become more vibrant,” especially in attracting seniors who are seeking out places with a great health care system.
Strategic Property Partners, a partnership of Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment LLC, is working on a $2 billion overhaul of 40 acres on the downtown Tampa waterfront.
Bauer said the University of South Florida’s decision to move its medical school downtown is also expected to grow business.
The prosperity of the big four — Tampa General Hospital, Florida Hospital, BayCare Health System and Moffitt Cancer Center — is creating a culture “that makes us a more valuable place for innovative companies to come,” DuBuque said. Secondarily, he said, no one is going to move their company to a community that doesn’t have quality health care options.
“We are becoming a ... destination for physician training, oncology training, nursing, heart transplants and medical tourism,” Bauer said, using Laser Spine Institute as an example of medical tourism. The institute, which recently built its new headquarters here, generates 80 percent of its clients from outside the area. Patients usually don’t come alone, and many fly in. They stay in hotels, eat at area restaurants and sometimes rent cars during their visits.
“A similar thing happens at Moffitt, where people come here from all over the world,” Bauer said. “The resulting boost to our economy is in hospitality, retail and that kind of thing. It all adds to the total economic impact of the health care industry on the community.”
BayCare Medical Group, associated with the health system, has 500 primary and specialty care physicians connected to more than 160 Tampa Bay area locations. BayCare Health System grew its number of full-time employees from 19,624 in 2011 to 26,253 today, said COO Glenn Waters. “That’s a 34 percent increase over a five-year period,” which includes employees who came into the fold when several smaller hospitals in the region merged with BayCare.
“We’ve had a very steady increase in activity over a five-year period, which is somewhat atypical compared to other businesses,” Waters said.
During the past five years, BayCare has invested $1.3 billion in capital expenditures. “And the employee growth equates to about $320 million in salaries and wages, which certainly has an impact on the economy,” Waters said.
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While patient rates are declining at hospitals because of new technology and new drugs, specialty centers are driving growth, he said. Outpatient campuses can provide health care less expensively than hospitals and also draw in a larger volume of people, some who might not otherwise seek treatment, he said.
“You’ll see health care activity growth, but it won’t necessarily be in hospitals,” but rather in outpatient settings.
“It’s the multiplier effect,” Waters said. “For every dollar we spend, the person that gets it spends it, and that person spends it for a much greater impact on the overall economy.”
BayCare’s transcatheter aortic valve replacement surgery is an example of a service now offered at satellite locations. It is a minimally invasive heart valve replacement surgery that draws patients from outside the area to two BayCare locations, Waters said. “We’ve had great success with that. It is one of the top five programs in the U.S.”
Tampa General CEO Jim Burkhart said much of the growth directly relates to the changing face of health care.
“We are all looking at how to change as a hospital. TGH is a 1,000-bed hospital on an island in the middle of South Tampa. How are we going to deliver care to the community in the new world,” which is less fee-for-service and more overall care per patient for a set amount.
“We’re building a better mouse trap,” Burkhart said. That involves building more outpatient locations. “We are continuing to expand our primary care footprint with nurse practitioners so we take care of people closer to home and family and don’t require them to come to our hospital.”
Over the past five years, Tampa General Hospital has hired 7,553 new employees. In the past five years, TGH has invested $267.6 million in capital expenditures.
“We’re building physical therapy sites, recreational therapy and speech therapy, outpatient diagnostics and surgery care centers,” Burkhart said. “We’re building the net that helps us to capture the population in the lowest cost setting possible.”
Laser Spine Institute, which recently began a phased move-in at its new headquarters in Avion Park near Tampa International Airport, created 100 jobs in the process of moving into its new headquarters, said Clint Borm, vice president of corporate development. “We have about 800 teammates here in Tampa from across the spectrum of health care delivery.
“It’s an exciting time for Laser Spine as we speak, and it turns out it’s an exciting time for Tampa’s overall economic growth,” Borm said. His company is shifting from just surgery to focusing more on research, outcome and innovation, he said. “We’re shifting from only surgery to solutions for neck and back pain.”
Laser Spine will be more outward facing as far as working with other health care providers, which will help those other providers grow their businesses, too, he said.
When combining patient spending, jobs created and all that is associated with those categories, Laser Spine had an overall economic impact on the community of about $280 million, Borm said.
BayCare has 14 hospitals in the Tampa region and 40 locations throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties. It is the second-largest employer in Hillsborough County after Publix Super Markets.
“We’ve evolved over time as we look at how to meet the needs of the community,” Waters said. With that evolution, the hospital company now has 55 patient care coordinators who work with patients to look after their long-term needs. The premise is that by keeping tabs on those with chronic conditions to ensure they are getting proper care, those people won’t end up in the hospital.
Florida Hospital right now has four active construction sights adding up to $250 million in construction costs, said Mike Schultz, president and CEO.
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“Five years ago, we had about 6,500 employees, and today we have about 7,600 and are continuing to grow over the next few years,” Schultz said.
“We’ve got a major expansion project at Florida Hospital in Carrollwood, a primary operating room increase, general ancillary expansion and some bed expansion, including a new orthopedic floor. Florida Hospital Tampa just completed an emergency department expansion and is now building a brand new pediatric emergency room that will open, probably in August.”
Florida Hospital is also doubling the size of its Wesley Chapel hospital to accommodate the phenomenal growth there. “That’s a full-blown doubling,” with 80 beds being added, Schultz said. Florida Hospital has also opened four urgent care facilities in the past 18 months and has four more in development to be completed over the next 12 to 18 months.
Moffitt Cancer Center, which focuses more heavily on research than the other three, is treating 55,000 patients a year and physically bursting at the seams.
“That (patient rate) places us as one of the top cancer centers in the country,” said Moffitt President and CEO Alan List. He said the center is getting $70 million in grant funding and works closely with pharmaceutical companies, which led to $30 million in sponsored research that those companies have the opportunity to license.
“Right now, we have 10 faculty that have founded startups focusing specifically on cancer through pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, and we have this past fiscal year 15 U.S. patents applied for and eight issued, along with 11 new licensing agreements,” all of which bring in money to the region.