Lee Health president speaks about the future of hospital system, healthcare

Reporter: Nicole Gabe Writer: Nicholas Karsen
Published: Updated:

For 40 years Lee Health President Larry Antonucci has served the Lee County community.

He arrived at the hospital system straight out of residency.

In 1983, Lee Memorial was the only hospital. Now there are four acute care hospitals, plus primary care and outpatient facilities and much more.

It was never Antanucci’s plan to become the top doctor for the hospital system.

“My plan was to be a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist for my career,” Antonucci told WINK News during a recent interview about the healthcare system’s future.

He delivered babies for 24 years. But the only thing constant in life is change.

Before becoming part of the hospital administration, Dr. Larry Antonucci delivered babies at Lee Health.

When the CEO of Lee Health asked him to join the administration, Antonucci said he couldn’t say no.

“This is an opportunity to take care of people a thousand at a time, instead of one at a time,” Antonucci said.

In a conversation with WINK News, Antonucci reflected about the past and discussed future care.

“I think healthcare is going to change,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of transformation in healthcare, and we want to be at the front edge of that.”

Antonucci said he sees healthcare shifting care away from the hospital to home.

“We’re looking at a hospital-at-home program right now to be able to take care of lower acuity people in their own homes.” Antonucci said. “It’s really going to be part of a team that can transform healthcare and deliver healthcare in a better way, in a more patient-centered, family-centered way, one that keeps people out of the hospital, that keeps people out of the emergency room.”

This could be helpful because wait at emergency departments times during season continue to be an issue.

“I don’t think there’s any way to completely resolve it,” he said. “It would be like saying how you’re going to affect the traffic on U.S. 41.”

But that doesn’t mean Lee Health isn’t trying, Antonnuci said.

The system has what he calls “our front door strategy,” which calls for improving access to primary care doctors.

Dr. Larry Antonucci has worked at Lee Health since after his residency. (CREDIT: Lee Health)

WINK News also asked Antonucci about the use of AI in medicine.

“AI is at its infancy as it relates to medicine,” he said. “Healthcare is a high-touch field, that you’re never going to replace the bedside nurse and what needs to be done there. And you’re never going to replace the skill of a surgeon and the decision-making and the judgments that have to be made in the middle of a surgical care.”

Antonucci said the hospital system will have to watch the AI field as it evolves and see what kind of safeguards there will be.

“I think there’s always the potential, and I think, you know, there’s plenty of issues that we deal with now in healthcare with regard to fraud and abuse, and I think that’s not going to stop, but we just got to stay on top of it,” Antonucci said.

There are still times when patients here must leave Lee County for treatment.

Antonucci said his team is actively recruiting specialists to meet the needs of the area’s growing community.

Lee Health also plans to build a new hospital along Challenger Boulevard, but Antonucci told WINK that no definite plans are set.

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