By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s a Keys comeback story.

Nearly four years after Hurricane Irma knocked out Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon, a new $43.7 million Fishermen’s Community Hospital is expected to open June 7.

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Baptist Health South Florida bought Fishermen’s in July 2017 for $13 million with plans for renovations. So much for plans. Two months later, Category 4 Irma hit, tearing up the hospital roof.

A renovation project suddenly turned into a rebuilding project.

“Demolished unfortunately by an act of God, but we were able to build a brand new facility,” said Drew Grossman, CEO of both the Baptist Health hospitals in the Keys, Fishermen’s, and Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.

“Our staff deserves this more than anything,” Grossman said. “A lot of them got displaced. I’m excited to look at the smiles on their faces and just to see the great work they’re going to do.”

Fishermen’s is one of only three hospitals along the island chain. Mariners has 25 beds, and Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West is licensed for 167 beds on two campuses.

Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiron said the rebuilding of Fishermen’s shows Baptist Health’s commitment to the community.

“It’s extremely exciting, not only to have a hospital back but a state-of-the-art hospital run by Baptist, which is one of the best in the nation,” Coldiron said. “It’s quite an honor.”


Sixteen days after Hurricane Irma hit the Keys, Fishermen’s opened a makeshift hospital in the parking lot at mile marker 48.7.

At first, it was a collection of tents and shipping containers, like a “MASH” unit. Later, Baptist replaced that by spending $5 million on modular buildings totaling about 8,000 square feet.

“It’s a fully functioning hospital, just on a smaller scale,” Grossman said of the temporary hospital. “The ER is where most of your business comes through. There are four beds.”

Abandoning the site was not an option after the hurricane, Grossman said.

“That was not in Baptist’s thought process,” Grossman said. “Instead of patching and repairing an old place, let’s scrap it and build a state-of-the-art facility. That says a lot about a system that cares about the community.”


The new hospital is a 37,300-square-foot building, with 22 beds, including two intensive-care beds and nine patient rooms in the emergency room. The old hospital, which dates to 1962, was larger and at one time had 75 beds, in the days before urgent care medicine and other healthcare providers.

“It kept shrinking in size over the years,” Grossman said.

Baptist said the new hospital building is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and will have emergency power that will last up to four days.


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The hospital’s owners and donors paid the bill for the new building. No tax dollars were spent.

“Up front, Baptist provided $25 million,” Grossman said. “The rest was raised through donations.”

But tax dollars have been going to Baptist for patient care.

In 2018, the Monroe County Commission approved a new property tax for the Middle Keys to raise $1.5 million a year for 10 years to pay for the poorest patients’ care — a request by Baptist.


Fishermen’s will provide chemotherapy for the first time in the new building, with three rooms.

Orthopedics, cardiology, oncology, gastroenterology and family medicine are available through Baptist Health but not at the Marathon hospital.

“While we have physicians available throughout Marathon, Tavernier and Key Largo, they are not based at the hospital,” said Baptist Health spokeswoman Georgi Pipkin.

There is also a surgical suite with one operating room. The hospital will also offer 3D mammography, which is in high demand.

“We already have a waiting list to get in there and we haven’t opened the doors yet,” Grossman said.

Fishermen’s won’t be a trauma hospital and at times patients will be airlifted to Miami-area hospitals.

“There’s a trauma room immediately inside the doors if you’re coming from an ambulance,” Grossman said. “The helipad is right outside.”


Fishermen’s won’t have a maternity ward. The old hospital didn’t have one either. But the hospital can handle emergency cases.

“We have the capability, if there’s an emergency pregnancy, we can deliver a baby,” Grossman said. “We actually did one two weeks ago at Fishermen’s.”

The only maternity ward in the Keys is at Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West.


There will be nearly 150 employees.

“We’re in the midst of still hiring,” Grossman said. “We’ve put a lot of openings out there. We’ve been hiring pretty steadily.”

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.) Team