Flagler Health+ Seeks Partners for Growth
With an aging population putting increasing demands on healthcare facilities and more people moving to Florida, Flagler Health+ is looking to meet that growth with new partners.
“The goal has been to serve the healthcare needs of the communities around us and that has not changed a lot,” said Flagler Health+ President and CEO Carlton DeVooght. “What we are now seeing, with ever-increasing demands and the best way to meet those demands, was do it with a like-minded health system.”
DeVooght recently sat down with EVOLVE Magazine publisher Howard Holley to talk about the organization’s future plans and commitment to serving the Northeast Florida region.
DeVooght said the search for the right partner begins with a shared commitment to the issues and services important to Flagler Health+, “whether it’s the commitment to behavioral health, commitment to youth in our community” along with other services. He said the documents created to facilitate the search include questions to ensure any organization wanting to join with Flagler Health+ share those commitments.
DeVooght said Flagler Health+ is working with Chicago-based Kaufman Hall, a healthcare consulting firm, in the process.
“They have been overwhelmingly pleased with the response we have received,” he said, adding the respondents number in the double digits.
Asked by Holley why this is the right time to seek like-minded partners, DeVooght highlighted several factors.
“One, this is a great place to live,” he said. “People are moving here and the growth is phenomenal in St. Johns and Flagler counties.”
With that growth comes increased demand for healthcare services and that could strain the organization’s ability to meet those needs.
“When I came into this role, the board leadership asked me to take a look at our strategic plan,” DeVooght said. “The board agreed we were at a point where we have strength in the community, we have loyalty in the community and we have to figure out how we make a decision that will solidify our future and make a better future for our communities.”
Asked about Flagler health+ expansion plans in Flagler County, DeVooght said that has been on the organization’s radar for a while, adding that before the Covid-19 pandemic the organization had plans for a medical office building and possibly a surgery center in Flagler.
“We are committed to Palm Coast and moving forward with those,” he told Holley. “That is where a like-minded organization is going to be so key.”
DeVooght said Flagler Health+ has always considered Flagler County to be an important market and the organization has always considered Palm Coast part of its coverage area.
“Flagler County is home to over 35% of our employees,” he said. “It’s important to our team and that makes it important to our organization.” Flagler Health+ recently opened a new primary care facility in Palm Coast and DeVooght said the organization is committed to meeting the community’s healthcare needs “as they come up.”
That perspective is something Greg Blose, president and CEO of the Palm Coast/Flagler Regional Chamber of Commerce, welcomes.
“The growth of the healthcare industry is sorely needed in Flagler County,” he said. “There are key healthcare services that are not available to Flagler residents and so we have to drive to Jacksonville, St. Augustine or Daytona. We need more healthcare industry in Flagler to serve our growing overall population, not just seniors.”
Blose said beyond serving the healthcare needs of the county, Flagler Health+ plans for expansion provide a base of good-paying jobs and continue to diversify the employment opportunities in Flagler County.
“Growing healthcare jobs in Flagler County will help diversify our economy, which now features one out of three jobs being supported by tourism,” Blose said. “That’s why diversifying our economy with high-skill, high-wage healthcare jobs is even more important.”
DeVooght said Flagler Health+ is being very deliberate in the search for a like-minded partner and the process includes in-depth interviews with potential organizations.
“We will make sure that folks are really representing themselves accurately in this process,” he said. That includes taking an active role in the life of the community.
“If you’re going to be part of a community, you need to be part of the community by participating and supporting the local businesses and supporting the local schools,” DeVooght said. “We need to find a partner that is going to give us the opportunity to do those things.”
Flagler Health+ has not released a timeline for the project.