New $1 billion UF project to supplement northeast Florida’s healthcare workforce


Shane Ersland


A new University of Florida (UF) Health campus will provide many healthcare services and thousands of new jobs in St. Johns County.

University leaders broke ground at UF Health Durbin Park last week, where a 42.5-acre health and wellness campus will include a full-service 150-bed hospital that will provide orthopedics, neurosurgery, cardiovascular medicine, and women’s services. The campus will also feature a multidisciplinary medical office building and an ambulatory surgery center. 

Mori Hosseini, chair of the UF Board of Trustees, spoke during the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We are here because UF has a bold vision for northeast Florida,” Hosseini said. “This is a gamechanger. The work we are starting here will be a foundation for this community. This is something that we can look back (on) with pride.”

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The $1 billion development will provide 2,000 new jobs initially, with leaders noting that a total of 12,000 jobs will be added to Jacksonville and St. Johns County over time. 

Dr. David Nelson, senior vice president for health affairs at UF Health, said the university understands its long-term commitment to the community. 

“We realize it doesn’t end today, it doesn’t end when the building opens, it doesn’t ever end,” Nelson said. “Because our families and your families are going to rely on these facilities and this progressive university to really lead the way in the future.”

Upon completion, the 395,000-square-foot-hospital will include acute, intensive, and emergency care; operating rooms; and an imaging suite and hybrid labs for interventional procedures. Site work for construction of the hospital began in December 2023, and UF Health expects it to open by late 2025. UF President Ben Sasse said the project falls in line with the university’s ambitious vision.

“The university has an ambitious vision to transform higher education. We know we have cutting-edge obligations in this state, and we are excited that Jacksonville is the center of the new. We want to set the standard for both elite and practical higher education in America. It isn’t just for this region. It is for the state and the nation that UF Jacksonville has been envisioned.”

— Sasse

The project complements UF’s goal of introducing innovative programs in medicine throughout northeast Florida, as well as supporting the region’s healthcare workforce. The Florida Hospital Association finalized an analysis in 2022 that showed the state’s registered nurse turnover rate was 32 percent, while the vacancy rate was 21 percent. Based on the analysis, Florida faces an overall shortage of 59,000 nurses by 2035.

The legislature’s Live Healthy package aims to support the state’s healthcare workforce and promote innovation as well. The package’s two main components—Senate Bill 7016 and SB 7018—were approved by lawmakers last week. 

Readers can learn more about Florida’s healthcare workforce and innovation needs at the 2024 Florida State of Reform Health Policy Conference, which will be held on April 25 at the JW Marriott in Tampa. Those interested can register here.

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