By D. K. Christi
When Competitors Cooperate, Community Wins: Bonita Community Health Center Continues to Provide Quality, Convenient Urgent Care & More
As new emergency rooms, urgent care centers and medical offices sprout up around what once was Estero’s only urgent care facility, the Bonita Community Health Center (BCHC) continues to affirm its place in the local healthcare landscape. Its structure, function, and the continued existence, of the BCHC is an anomaly.
Lee Health and NCH Healthcare System — adversaries vying for local market share — both opened freestanding emergency rooms in 2018 with less than a mile between their shiny, new facilities. Also between them, the BCHC, which has served the community for nearly 20 years. It’s a place where competition must halt in favor of cooperation: despite some past legal wrangling, the BCHC remains jointly owned and operated by Lee Health and NCH.
As both healthcare systems expand their offerings near the Lee-Collier county line (and are joined by other players in the healthcare industry), the BCHC must continue to find and fill its niche: urgent care, imaging, rehabilitation and outpatient surgery.
“The Bonita Community Health Center, as an organization, will continue serving the community with patient centered care,” asserts CEO Sara McCallum, who contributes to the neutrality of a board that’s comprised equally of representatives from the two competing healthcare systems.
McCallum started working at NCH in 1983 and later became an independent consultant, helping to open the surgery center at the BCHC in 1999. So when she took the job as CEO seven years ago, it felt like “coming home.”
Patients from 18 days old to 103 years old have received services from the BCHC, which treats the gamut of mishaps and minor medical traumas, from broken bones to flu and respiratory issues. If a medical emergency is life threatening, the best course is to call an ambulance. For anything else, the BCHC is there.
The two-story facility with a welcoming Florida atrium also includes offices for various medical providers, the NCH Wound Center, a lab and a pharmacy. As Estero evolves into an epicenter for healthcare in Southwest Florida, the BCHC has become a prime location for medical professionals wanting to open or relocate offices, adds McCallum.
Quality, convenient and affordable medical services have led to a loyal patient following from Marco Island to Lehigh Acres, notes the CEO. In 2018, BCHC provided 44,339 patient care services.
“Our staff members are highly credentialed, and many have long-term careers here,” she adds. “Patients often say they would like our doctors as their primary care physicians.”
Dr. Alan Goldstein, medical director for Urgent Care, began his career at BCHC in 2000 and is board-certified in pediatrics and emergency medicine.
“I have found the patient care philosophy, staff support and patients sustain a positive environment for me for the long term,” he says of his continued contentment at BCHC.
Another longtime caregiver at BCHC is Urgent Care Nurse Manager Richard Faulkner. After a decade of working at the center, he knows the clinic and its related services well and promotes his philosophy that the patient comes first.
“Urgent care services are efficient, beginning with the ‘SmartLine’ that starts with the patient phone, so staff is ready when the patient reaches the center,” says Faulkner.
He is glad emergency rooms have opened nearby, making things easier for Estero residents who require care beyond what the BCHC is able to offer. Collaboration with these new facilities includes coordinating patient services and sharing medical records to best meet each patient’s needs.
“The emergency room is the place for strokes, heart issues and severe life threatening emergencies; we can help just about anything else,” asserts Faulkner. “If it does rise to emergency considerations, we have immediate access to local emergency rooms.”
Sample medical conditions treated at BCHC Urgent Care include blood pressure, pulse, abdominal discomfort, urinary tract infections, rashes, bruises, cuts, broken bones, congestion, coughs and other respiratory issues.
As competing urgent care facilities open in the area, the BCHC’s market share in that arena fluctuates. However, the BCHC’s Ambulatory Surgery Center remains a huge draw and has seen a surge in the number of outpatient surgeries.
BCHC surgeons are in-network for most insurance providers, and about 60 percent of surgeries fall under Medicare coverage, according to McCallum. For patients, physicians and insurance providers, outpatient surgery is often the most efficient, cost-effective and patient-centered option.
The high-quality, outpatient surgery center includes four operating rooms. Examples of surgeries performed at the BCHC include melanoma skin cancer removal, cataracts, plastic surgery, and ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeries. The surgery center also includes an endoscopy department.
An additional component of the BCHC’s continued purpose is its Physical Therapy Department, offering outpatient rehabilitation services. Many patients also are referred to the BCHC for imaging services.
“We have the latest imaging technology, such as 3-D mammography, digital X-rays, bone density equipment that meets the World Health Organization’s newest standards, ultrasound and MRI that offers the option of feet-first when applicable,” says Sheri Branstetter, director of Imaging Services. She has been serving patients at BCHC for eight years through a career that has steadily progressed from an X-ray student to her present post overseeing the high-tech imaging services.
Report turnaround is quick, and an online “dashboard” enables physicians to see imaging reports for their patients nationwide.
Goldstein says he considers the Imaging Department a great asset for getting patient workups in a timely manner. It’s a “bonus” not generally found at an urgent care facility.
“Patients can leave the BCHC with a diagnosis and their imaging disk with X-ray, CT, MRI or other images in hand,” Goldstein notes. “I feel that we continue to offer new services to better meet patient needs.”
The BCHC has a proven record for providing needed medical services to the community and plans to continue providing quality outpatient services, complementing rather than competing with the area’s new healthcare facilities.
“We have a loyal following for the convenient services we offer and the quality care,” says McCallum.
- Urgent Care – non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, employee health services & school /sports physicals
- Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) – outpatient surgery & endoscopy
- Rehabilitation – Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, balance testing, post-surgery rehabilitation
- Radiology Imaging – X-ray, Fluoroscopy, CT, MRI, Digital Mammography, Bone Densitometry & Ultrasound
- Other Services: physician offices, lab services, wound care & a compounding pharmacy
Call (239) 949-1050 or visit www.bonitahealthcenter.com
Editor’s Note: For an update on this story, see the news from Lee Health on its coming buyout of the NCH interest in BCHC: https://esterolifemagazine.com/lee-health-to-purchase-nch-ownership-of-bonita-community-health-center/