Grand opening for a grand facility: Ascension opens new hospital in St. Johns County


Ascension St. Vincent’s opened a new hospital in St. Johns County and did so in the grandest way, as the facility hosted the public for a community event and ribbon cutting on site July 1.

The free event was a chance for the public to get acquainted with their new hospital as well as share in some fun family activities while they were there, as games, vendors and mascots from local sports teams were present.

According to Sean McAfee, vice president of nursing with Ascension St. Vincent's St. Johns County, pride was the No. 1 emotion he and the staff at the facility were feeling.

“As a member of St. Johns County, myself, I can’t be prouder of this facility,” McAfee said.

The hospital hopes to fill a need for the residents in the northwestern region of the county by providing them with another necessary option when medical issues arise.

“This county is the fastest growing county in the United States, so the access was very much needed,” McAfee said.

Even prior to the hospital taking its first patient, McAfee had already heard positive feedback from the community, the county’s emergency medical services and the police departments that they are partnering with.

The hospital’s construction began in December 2020 and that idea was made a reality and revealed when the public laid its first eyes inside the building during to start July.

The structure is 150,000 square feet with 56 in-patient beds, 15 emergency room beds and six operating rooms.

“It really is a state-of-the-art facility, not only in a high-tech perspective, but when it comes to low tech as well,” McAfee said.

An example of the efficiency of even the low-tech aspect of the hospital is with its “medical mall,” which greets anyone who first walks in through the main entrance of the building.

This is done by cleaning up the sight lines and helping a person find where they need to go to help speed up their process and make the situation as seamless as possible.

“When you walk in, you can see everywhere you need to go,” McAfee said. “The elevators to the patient floors, the cafeteria, a personalized help desk, surgery check-in and even kiosks along the wall if you can register yourself. That is a highly unusual approach in your traditional hospital.”

Some of the little things the hospital is doing that they hope goes a long way in adding to a patient’s experience, include a “living wall,” which is featured as part of the “medical mall” and has live greenery on it that can be touched, and towel art that is a common sight in many of the rooms.

Many of the usual specialties that have become expected from most hospitals will also be offered at the facility, such as orthopedics, neurology and general surgery.

“Really any service line you can imagine, we’ve got,” McAfee said. “From a staffing perspective we really do have strong care teams, but from a personal and Ascension perspective, we really want compassionate people and I think we’ve been successful and getting that.”

Being part of the Ascension outfit of facilities can not only be a helpful tool when sharing resources, but it also played a large role during the developmental phase of the hospital, as they figured out what ideas they could borrow from other hospitals while making it the best fit for St. Johns County.

“We were really fortunate here to have already had built a facility in Clay County not too many years ago and we were really able to learn from that to improve here,” McAfee said. “We have some really highly-skilled leaders at the other Ascension facilities here in the Jacksonville market, and it’s been a real blessing to have.”