When I started working in the finance department at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1993, our four-county region boasted a population of just 2.5 million people; four years later when St. Joseph’s was among the not-for-profit hospitals that formed BayCare Health System, numbering 2.6 million. Now, as I retire as CEO of BayCare, 3.8 million people call Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties home.
I am proud to have been a part of the growth and adaptation of your public health care system. BayCare now has 15 hospitals (soon to be 16) and a fully integrated network of services that touch approximately one-third of the region’s population each year.
As I reflect on BayCare’s accomplishments, I am most proud of what our team members and physicians have accomplished by maintaining the mission we began with: Improving the health of all we serve. I believe that keeping BayCare strong is vital to ensuring that Tampa Bay and West Central Florida remain vibrant and healthy places to live.
Later this month, Stephanie Connors, who began her career as a nurse and has helped lead health systems in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the past two decades, will become only the fourth person to lead this important community organization.
BayCare was founded in 1997 when a small group of not-for-profit hospital systems sought to ensure they could remain strong and relevant in a complex and highly competitive healthcare environment. At stake was the strength of community-led local hospitals whose primary interest was to serve their communities.
The stories of these hospitals are intertwined with their communities. They were founded by nurses, doctors and community-minded people. They were funded by religious organizations, wealthy patrons and legions of small donors. Through hard work, ingenuity and passion for service, they had survived as independents for decades.
But the market was changing. These hospitals came together in a unique partnership, each agreeing to manage their operations from a new entity, BayCare, with the same community focus.
Since those founding days, BayCare has evolved significantly. We built more hospitals to serve our communities and other hospitals joined us. Together, each year we put around 10 per cent of our revenue back into charitable care or other community investment.
And BayCare has evolved to ensure our communities have access to all levels of health care — not just hospitals — so people can get care when they need it close to or in their homes. This includes one of the region’s largest physician organizations, BayCare Medical Group, and an extensive network of outpatient facilities and services, including BayCare HomeCare.
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I am also proud of the commitment we have made to the youngest in our region and to our collective mental health. They are important to us, not because they primarily contribute to financial results (because they don’t), but because they are fundamental to the long-term health of any community.
We are the largest provider of pediatric care in the region, including the exceptional, specialty care located at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. We are also the region’s largest provider of behavioral health services and continue to add capacity. Our Board of Trustees remains deeply committed to the mental health of our region, which is why we supported the founding of Tampa Bay Thrives.
Together, we have built a health care system that has repeatedly been recognized nationally as among the top 20% in the country. The commitment of our 27,753 team members and approximately 5,000 physicians to our communities is incredibly inspiring. And you, by trusting us, have also helped us grow and stay strong.
Healthcare is an ever-changing industry due to advances in science but also in regulation. I feel better about the future of our communities because BayCare is here and remains steadfast in its commitment to clinical excellence and its mission to serve the health of communities. This is something we should all be proud of.
Tommy Inzina, CEO and president of BayCare, will retire later this month after 29 years with the organization.