TARPON SPRINGS – Jason Dunkel stressed that Adventist HealthCare’s commitment to the community remains strong when he presented Florida Hospital North Pinellas’ request for a long-term lease extension to the City Commission on July 24.

City voters will be asked to approve the lease extension in the fall.

“I think each person here tonight knows over the past eight years we’ve established at Florida Hospital North Pinellas a history of providing excellent health care in this community,” Dunkel, the hospital’s president and CEO, said. Not-for-profit Adventist has invested more than $60 million in the South Pinellas Avenue facility since taking over in 2010, leading to nine consecutive semesters of ‘A’ grades, making it “the longest standing ‘A-graded’ hospital in the Tampa Bay area, he said.

“We employ 800 people and contribute greatly to the overall economic impact of our local community.”

He added: “That’s what this is about. It’s about being invested locally, long-term. It’s about establishing a long-term relationship with the people of Tarpon Springs and the North Pinellas community. That’s why we’re here tonight.”

Dunkel, a Tampa native who served as the hospital’s vice-president of business development and operations for three years prior to being named CEO a few weeks ago, explained how the hospital is ready to invest $30 million for a new exterior and façade and a new emergency room. Due to the planned commitment, Dunkel said officials want to extend the current lease agreement, which expires in 2040. Adventist wants an additional 30 years, with a pair of options for renewal following the expiration of the extension in 2070 that could take the agreement to 2095.

In addition, the hospital would pay a lump sum of $3 million dollars to the city within 30 days of the signing of the proposed extension, according to Dunkel.

Dunkel then briefed city commissioners on the plans for $30 million in improvements to the hospital. They include interior renovations, a new ER on the first floor and an exterior façade featuring an atrium that connects the hospital to the ER.

“This is what we’re wanting to accomplish with the $30 million dollars and through the extension of our lease,” he said. The hospital would make the $3 million lump-sum payments as part of the 30-year lease extension, he said.

“I believe these improvements will be good for the hospital, good for the people and good for the community of Tarpon Springs,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said.

Commissioner Rea Sieber said, “This hospital is essential to our community” and need “additional renovations.” Commissioner Susan Miccio-Kikta sought assurance the name of Helen Ellis, a longtime member of the hospital’s auxiliary, would remain associated with the facility in some capacity.

“We’re working to maintain the name somewhere on the building,” Dunkel said. “We will collaboratively have those discussions and work to keep it somewhere on the building.”

Attorney Michael Kouskoutis, a member of the hospital’s board, said, “The hospital has demonstrated many times over the years its commitment to this community.”

The request for the lease extension showed Adventist’s long-term commitment to the community and added, “This community deserves and is entitled to great health care, and nothing can reiterate that more than their commitment to health care and their commitment to this community.”

With that, commissioners unanimously approved the proposed leased extension on first reading. The proposal will go for a second reading on Aug. 7 and would be put on the ballot for referendum on Nov.6 if it passes.

“Florida Hospital North Pinellas looks forward to extending our long-standing relationship with the Tar-pon Springs community,” Dunkel later said via email. “We are committed to providing exceptional, whole person care to every patient, every time. This ER expansion and hospital renovation project allows us to continue to elevate the quality of care we deliver to our patients.”