It wasn’t the way Halifax Health wanted to celebrate its enduring partnership with the University of Florida, but the first anniversary of the Halifax Health UF Health Medical Center of Deltona came and went with far more patients in its 2020 opening than it ever expected.
When its opening was being previewed by the Hometown News in January 2020, the pandemic hadn’t yet reshaped the entire trajectory of the world. The announcement of the Deltona medical center was yet another feather in the cap of a valued partnership between Halifax Health and the University of Florida.
The partnership began in 2015, when Halifax Health established a relationship with UF Health for heart and vascular surgery services. In 2017, the two organizations worked together to build out Halifax Health Medical Center’s kidney transplant program. The next year, the two announced a neurosurgery partnership.
The $153 million, 6-story, 202,242 square-foot building houses 4 operating rooms, 3 multipurpose procedure rooms, 30 medical and surgical rooms, and 13 intensive care rooms. Each room is fully integrated with systems and tools necessary for procedures and was designed with both physician and nurse access as well as patient comfort.
In a more conservative time, the medical center was planning to employ 211 full-time employees with an estimated economic impact of $133 million—but that was prepandemic.
“2020 was definitely different than what we planned for as we built Deltona’s hospital in west Volusia County,’’ explains Halifax Health President and CEO Jeff Feasel in a press release. “If given the choice, we would have liked to have avoided opening this state-of-the-art medical facility during the twenty-first century pandemic, but I am pleased to say our staff has met the challenge and performed admirably. The amount of care our team members have provided is truly impressive.’’
Since opening in February 2020, the medical center has cared for over twelve thousand patients, performed nearly four hundred surgeries, and admitted over one thousand patients, according to UF Health’s chief of staff.
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Eric Peburn is a longtime contributor not just to Halfiax’s evolving partnerships but also to the larger health system. Peburn came to Halifax Health in 1996 as corporate controller, working his way up through several promotions including director of finance and assistant administrator. He’s been in his current role since 2007.
The former Ernst and Young senior auditor holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Florida. On top of being a former CPA and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Peburn also served on executive committees and the board of directors for Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce. He’s currently a board member of Volusia Health Network, Halifax Insurance Plan, and Healthcare Purchasing Alliance. Peburn also serves on the executive committee of the Civic League of the Halifax Area.
“Eric led a fantastic vision to expand Halifax Health,” says Bob Elliott, president at Noon Development. “We were honored to partner with him in adding 55,000 square feet of medical office space to the Halifax Health footprint, plus developing 4 express care locations broadening access to Halifax Health in this region.”
In addition to Peburn’s duty as CFO to keep the health system in good financial standing post-pandemic and throughout its growth stage, Halifax understands this as a crucial moment to do right by its patients. At the time of writing in fall 2021, it was the first time in more than five weeks that less than one hundred patients admitted to their hospitals were diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The decline in hospitalizations is an encouraging sign,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Margaret Crossman says in a statement. “I’m confident there would have been far more hospitalizations and deaths had we not had such excellent vaccination uptake among our older and more vulnerable populations. We are now experiencing a relatively rapid downtick in new cases and COVID-related hospitalizations.”
Given Florida’s high elderly population and its noted refutation of vaccine mandates, health systems are not only battling a pandemic but also the politicization of the pandemic that has led to far higher COVID-19 numbers in geographic areas that aren’t as willing to mandate masks and other preventative measures.
But given Halifax Health’s continued demonstration of flexibility, adaptation, and patient-centered care, the latest numbers are a sign that the health system’s public outreach efforts are proving successful. But there’s still a long way to go.