Florida Hospital Wauchula
Hardee Memorial Hospital
The hospital was started in the 1970s as Hardee Memorial Hospital. The main hospital building has always been located a 533 W. Carlton Street. This hospital has always been small, but from the start it provided necessary health services for a highly rural area of Florida. From the start it had a maternity unit, although apparently no emergency or outpatient services.
Baby Swap Incident
In 1978 a baby swap took place at Hardee Memorial that ultimately forced it to close its doors. Babies Arlena Twigg and Kimberly Mays were born within days of each other and were switched and sent home with the wrong parents. Relatives of one of the mothers were prominent in the opening of Hardee Memorial. One was involved in the building and financing of the hospital and another was on the hospital board of trustees.
The baby swap was discovered ten years later, when one baby died of a congenital heart defect and laboratory testing showed the baby was not related to her parents. In 1992 author Loretta Schwartz-Nobel published a book about the incident. The book, The Baby Swap Conspiracy, also inspired a TV movie, Switched at Birth, that had aired the previous year.
According to Schwartz-Nobel, Hardee Memorial was forced into bankruptcy due to the legal battle concerning the baby swap. Hardee Memorial closed in July 1992. Soon after Florida Hospital Heartland Division, which ran hospitals in Sebring, Florida, and Lake Placid, Florida, obtained the closed hospital and has been running it ever since.
Florida Hospital Takes Over Hardee Memorial Hospital
Florida Hospital expanded services at Wauchula soon after reopening the hospital. The emergency and outpatient departments opened in 1993. The emergency department expanded from seven to fourteen beds in 2009 and upgraded its equipment. Seriously ill patients coming into the emergency department are transferred to the Florida Hospitals at Sebring or Lake Placid or to larger hospitals in Tampa and Orlando. Outpatient services have grown to include laboratory testing, electrocardiograms (ECGs), x-rays and MRIs.
Expansion of Services Since 1993
The hospital has twenty-five inpatient beds. A transitional care unit was opened in the hospital to provide rehabilitative care for patients discharged from the Division's three hospitals, but deemed to need further care before returning home. In 2004 a hospitalist position was added to aid in the care of inpatients.
Florida Hospital Wauchula has several activities in buildings outside of the hospital building. Across the street, at 522-526 W. Carlton, is a building that originally housed the Wauchula Daybreak Behaviorial Health unit, the Women's Wellness Center and the practice of Kathleen Welch-Wilson, MD, and Joseph Toulouse, MD. Toulouse became the emergency services director at Florida Hospital Lake Placid in 2009. At 457 W. Carlton was the Wauchula Outpatient Center, opened in March 2009. The Outpatient Center housed the Wauchula Center for Wound Healing and the Wauchula Sleep Disorders Center. In July 2011 the Outpatient Center closed and the two units there moved to 522-526 W. Carlton. In early 2014 the Wound Center at Wauchula, according to the FHHD website, relocated to inside the main hospital building, at 533 W. Carlton. In March 2014 Dr. Welch-Wilson's practice was closed, leaving only the Women's Center and the Sleep Center at 522-526 W. Carlton.
The Wauchula Therapy Center, at 1330 Highway 17 South, provides physical therapy services.
On December 2, 2010, Tim Cook, CEO for FHHD, announced Florida Hospital took ownership of Pioneer Medical Clinic, in the building between the main hospital building and the Outpatient Center. Pioneer Medical is the largest primary care practice in Wauchula and had been under at least two different owners in the previous ten years.
- Hospital-Date.Com website, http://www.hospital-data.com/hospitals/FLORIDA-HOSPITAL-WAUCHULA-WAUCHULA.html .
- Schwartz-Nobel's website, http://www.lorettaschwartznobel.com/published/index/php .
- Florida Hospital Heartland Division (FHHD) website, http://www.fhhd.org/AboutUs/FacilitiesLocations.aspx .
- FHHD website.
- FHHD Website.
- Tim Cook, "Welcome Pioneer Medical Clinic!!!!," FHHD intranet (private unlisted site).