University of Florida Health unveiled on Monday at The Oaks Mall the region’s premier surgical center for eye and ear, nose and throat patients, a landmark project for Florida’s top-rated health system that is a culmination of years of planning to expand these practices and bring comprehensive and innovative care to the heart of the community.
UF Health Surgical Center – The Oaks supports UF Health’s ophthalmology (eye specialties) and otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat, or ENT) practices, with radiology services on-site so patients can have full MRIs, X-rays and CT scans all under one roof.
The center is part of UF Health The Oaks, a 139,000-square-foot facility that opened at the mall in January where Sears was formerly located at 6201 W. Newberry Road. With the opening of the surgical center, patients can now have all their eye and ENT needs met in one location, however complex their care.
Aside from ENT and ophthalmology services provided by UF Health faculty, UF Health The Oaks also includes audiology services.
UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez said the opening of the surgical center is the capstone of a strategy that began years ago as ever greater numbers of patients from throughout Florida and the region sought out UF Health’s ophthalmology and otolaryngology services.
He said more doctors were added to the practices, which in turn necessitated more space. Opening UF Health The Oaks provided the growing room in a location with patient-focused features and adorned with welcoming, custom-designed art work.
“It’s awesome to get to the finish line,” Jimenez said. “It’s the culmination of a long road, and that road started with patients who really wanted the world-class care that we offer, not just in Gainesville but throughout Florida and the region. We’re proud to offer the most comprehensive eye and ENT services in the state. We hope this will serve as a model on how hospitals can best serve their patients by making access to services as convenient as possible.”
Indeed, UF Health Surgical Center – The Oaks is located close to Interstate 75. Ample free parking is just a short walk to the surgical center and physician practices.
“That means it’s a wonderful location for all those patients who come from all over Florida and far away who now won’t have to drive into the belly of the city,” Jimenez said.
The $24 million, 23,500-square-foot UF Health Surgical Center – The Oaks boasts five operating rooms, a waiting room and a family consult room, in addition to 19 pre-op and post-anesthesia care units. A bright and beautiful image of Little Talbot Island State Park near Jacksonville adorns one entire side of the waiting and check-in area.
The opening of UF Health Surgical Center – The Oaks will allow physicians to perform a range of procedures at one location, where previously they had been handled at several different sites throughout UF Health. For ophthalmology, those include dropless and laser cataract surgery, retina surgery, ophthalmic plastic surgery, ocular cancer surgery, corneal transplants, intraocular miniature telescope for macular degeneration, and glaucoma surgery.
“Having the surgical center co-located with our practice is really nice for the patients and staff,” said Sonal S. Tuli, M.D., chair of the UF College of Medicine’s department of ophthalmology. “And since the practice is optimized for eye and ENT, all the staff will be be very familiar with surgeries involving those specialties, unlike other operating rooms where you have multiple specialties working. That makes it more efficient and benefits the patient.”
She noted that being located at The Oaks Mall mall means patients and their loved ones can take advantage of food and shopping opportunities.
Common ENT and allergy procedures that will now be accessible to patients at UF Health Surgical Center – The Oaks include tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, ear tube procedures and sinus surgeries.
Patrick J. Antonelli, M.D., chair of the UF College of Medicine’s department of otolaryngology, said consolidating services in one location provides efficiencies that benefit the care of patients.
“This is all about the patient, about doing things that are patient-centric,” Antonelli said. “Having radiology, lab, the practice, and the OR in one location really helps our patients. They don’t have to drive all over town for different services. It’s especially helpful for patients that come from rural Florida, Georgia, Alabama and so forth. They very much appreciate having something that’s very convenient to the interstate. It’s a real boon for them.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all patients and visitors to the facility are asked to wear a face mask and are screened upon entering. That process includes a few brief questions and the taking of everyone’s temperature upon entering.