On Dec. 10, a journey that began in January 2015 passed a major milestone when patients arrived at the new UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital. While the event marked the end of the first phase — construction of the state-of-the-art hospitals — it was just the beginning of the real work: saving more lives.

These new specialty hospitals adjacent to the UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital will allow UF Health physicians, nurses and care providers to extend more patients’ lives, advance UF Health’s research and education goals and enable a new phase of robust growth for the health system.

UF Health in Gainesville has the collective resources to be the state’s only academic health center that admits patients from all 67 Florida counties each year, in addition to serving patients from throughout the Southeast, the nation and several other countries.

The new hospitals’ numbers are impressive: the new facilities occupy 521,104 square feet, there are 216 total beds, the parking garage has 600 spaces, and there are 380,000 bricks in the buildings. But numbers alone tell only part of the story. The hospitals were built in response to exponential growth in the number of complex cardiac and neuromedicine cases throughout Florida and beyond.

“The need for excellent neuromedicine and cardiac care will continue to grow,’’ said Ed Jimenez, chief executive officer for UF Health Shands. “Who better than UF Health to lead the way in education, patient care and research as we develop and implement new treatments for this segment of the population?’’

The goal of building the new hospitals was to provide streamlined access to highly specialized, comprehensive outpatient treatment options and inpatient services in one location. Mission accomplished.

“These two new hospitals reflect the goals outlined in our strategic plan, to offer our patients a continuum of compassionate care that will address their cardiovascular and neuromedicine needs throughout their lives,’’ said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “One location lets us address everything from outpatient visits and easy access to laboratory tests and imaging to complex surgeries and follow-up care.’’

The flow of the hospitals, from the parking garage all the way through to the progressive patient rooms, is the result of careful planning and design work that emphasized the role of sometimes unstated but still vital healing qualities, such as the use of green space and large windows.

“This building has two front doors, not a back door,’’ said Brad Pollitt, A.I.A., UF Health Shands vice president of facilities. “We designed it to ensure our patients and visitors can easily access the hospitals. We want them to know they’re in the right place because the people and their expertise, the technology and the facilities are the very best and all aligned for their optimal care.’’

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