Planned Hospital on US 1 All But Dead, Mayor Says, as Advent, Baptist and Halifax Vie to Buy Flagler Health

Planned Hospital on US 1 All But Dead, Mayor Says, as Advent, Baptist and Halifax Vie to Buy Flagler Health

Flagler Health+ plans to build a hospital on a 70-acre lot west of US 1 and Palm Coast Parkway appear to have died. And the St. Augustine-based company is in the market, with AdventHealth, Halifax Health and Jacksonville-based Baptist Health competing to buy it, according to Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin.

Almost exactly a year ago, Flagler Health, owner of the local Flagler Hospital, completed the purchase of 70 acres worth $2 million on vacant land just off the cul-de-sac of the Palm Coast Parkway at US 1. It was an attempt to challenge AdvetHealth’s dominance of the Palm Coast healthcare market.

By then, however, AdventHealth Palm Coast had broken ground on its second hospital in the city, a 100-bed facility on Palm Coast Parkway. The hospital, which was a $164 million project at last estimate in March, was scheduled to open next spring. There was no question that AdventHealth developed the Midtown project as a message to Flagler Health.

Despite its size on a site with little elbow room, the second hospital met with no resistance and much support, including from city leaders, all of whom are expected to be present at the hospital’s opening ceremony in the spring. But there was also interest, particularly from the county government, in bringing Flagler Health to the county, as with its once-planned North Palm Coast Medical Village.

“We urgently need another network in the city,” said Alfin in an interview today. “So here’s the worst that could happen. If Advent buys this hospital, brings in the next hospital, it would just kill me because that could happen. You have Halifax, Baptist and Advent all competing to buy Flagler Health.”

Flagler Health+ confirmed in August that it was looking for a “partner,” sparking speculation about who would be in line to acquire it. The hospital described it as a decision to “explore the future” and “expand access to care.”

“Specifically, Flagler Health+ is seeking an organization that is a community fit,” the hospital said in its announcement. She initiated the search through a consultant and a request for quotation without specifying who was on the list.

Alfin put it more categorically. “They are bought,” he said. “They are bought by either Halifax Baptist or Advent. In my opinion, I really don’t want Advent to be the winner of this. I want to compete. This is my business background. I really want a competitive network in the city. I think this will serve our residents much better than a lockdown because if Advent buys, that’s about it. That’s all you’ll ever have here.”

Alfin has had no direct or indirect contact with Baptist leaders while “the top guys” at Flagler Health “are gone,” it was never clear why.” “Halifax, I spoke to him,” he said. “They have expressed interest and I have been to meetings in the past where they have expressed interest” in the property. On the other hand, he said, “I know that both Halifax and Baptist want an I-95 front. Don’t ask me why.”

That seems to rule out the US 1 location.

Alfin said he was “very certain” Flagler Health’s plan for a hospital at US 1 and Palm Coast Parkway was dead. When asked to be more specific, he said he was “80 percent sure.” That doesn’t necessarily mean the site wouldn’t eventually see a hospital under a different name, although Alfin felt AdventHealth’s move down the Parkway had successfully blocked Flagler Health+’s expansion.

Alfin emphasized that his hopes for more health competition in the city are not a judgment on AdventHealth. “Don’t get me wrong, to me, Wally is as good as it gets,” the mayor said, referring to Wally de Aquino, AdventHealth Palm Coast’s chief operating officer. “If only I could convince them to build campus housing for their people. I’ll try it.”

Commenting on the ongoing disputes and positioning between healthcare companies, he added: “This is all happening despite us, which is killing me because I strongly believe that City Government is where you should be managing your future. You want to be up to date. And I don’t know that.”

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