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Neighbors say NCH's proposed heart institute too tall, too crowded

Posted at 7:52 AM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 07:58:57-05

NAPLES, Fla. — NCH, Collier County’s largest healthcare system, says it wants to bring a world-class heart institute to Naples. But some homeowners say that would bring more people to an area that’s already too crowded, plus violate city laws.

Both sides had their say here at Naples City Hall at a public meeting to discuss the issue.

“We citizens spoke loud and clear some time ago. We don’t want high rise in this town,” said William Jack, who spoke at the meeting.

Some who live near NCH’s downtown campus say the new five-story heart, stroke and vascular center is too tall.

This city council workshop was to discuss creating a special hospital zoning district that would allow NCH’s new building to be taller than the 42-foot limit set in the city’s charter.

No vote was taken — only discussion.

“We think it has unintended consequences,” said Janet Ferry, president of the Olde Naples Association which represents homeowners near the hospital. “It violates our charter amendment that was voted on in the year 2000.”

NCH said its proposed heart center would be 83 feet tall. That’s nine feet shorter than the next-door Baker Hospital — which was built before 2000 when the 42-foot limit was voted in.

The biggest concern from the public was congestion. People worry that an expanded hospital, with more patients and more employees, would make downtown Naples even busier.

“My age group is having heart attacks left and right, so I’m really enthusiastic about being close to a heart center,” said Bebe Kanter. “But not if the traffic is so bad that I can’t get here.”

NCH CEO Paul Hiltz said that the new facility must be taller than 42 feet in order to include all the medical equipment and private beds that will earn it a top rating.

Hospital officials also said the heart center needs to be on its current campus to be close to the existing facilities — and to the people who need it.

“With heart disease and stroke, minutes to matter,” said Dr. Robert J. Cubeddu, president of the NCH Heart Institute. “Every minute and access to care critical is important.”

Those in favor of the new facility say they want it nearby for that same reason.

Andrew Dean said it would take him more than 30 minutes to get to another hospital outside city limits.

“I can get to NCH in less half time,” Dean said. “If I were to have stroke or serious cardio issue, my survival might depend upon that.”