The hospital today known as Florida Hospital North Pinellas has been serving our community for nearly 90 years, ever since a two-story, 12-bed facility opened in the summer of 1927. It came about thanks to the vision and dedication of Dr. Elmer W. Burnette, a resident who convinced the city that taking out a $25,000 bond to build Tarpon Springs General Hospital—only the second hospital in all of Pinellas County—would make Tarpon Springs a better place to live.
Just a few years later, Tarpon Springs, like all of America, was hit hard by the Great Depression. This tiny hospital persevered, keeping its doors open through even the darkest of times. However, in 1947, with post-war demands draining the city’s resources, the city commission decided to close the hospital.
Dr. Burnette was not about to see his vision die without a fight. He developed a plan to set up a community foundation comprised of the city’s civic organizations and churches. This foundation would raise money to support the hospital. Eventually, the city commission agreed to lease the hospital to the Tarpon Springs Hospital Foundation for $1 a year.
By the end of the 1950s, the hospital was doing so well that the foundation and city were working together to plan a new wing—part of a long-range plan to make it a 50-bed hospital. In 1966, the original hospital structure was demolished, making way for a brand-new facility.
The area was growing, and so was Tarpon Springs General. By 1972, its bed capacity had more than doubled. In the mid-’70s a 24-hour emergency room and intensive care unit had opened.
In 1988, the hospital’s board of trustees, with the support of the city commission, voted to change the facility’s name to Helen Ellis Hospital, honoring a charter member of the hospital’s volunteer auxiliary whose husband had made a number of major charitable donations in the 1980s. After Mrs. Ellis passed away in 1989, the hospital was rechristened the Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital.
The newly named Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital continued to grow. By the early 1990s, in fact, it had become a modern, eight-story, 168-bed full-service hospital.
However, this growth didn’t always come easily, and the hospital met with some financial challenges. In 1995, the board began seeking out a strategic partner to boost its financial strength in a very competitive market. In 2000, the hospital—with the support of city residents and leaders—entered into an affiliation agreement with a community-based non-profit facility, the University Community Hospital (UCH) in Tampa.
With this backing secure, the hospital began earning national recognition for its quality of care, including being given the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence.
In the late 2000s, UCH and Adventist Health System (AHS) began collaborating on a proposition to build a new hospital in the fast-growing Wesley Chapel area. Not only did this come to be, but in 2009, UCH and AHS decided to merge, and in 2010 the Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital became part of AHS.
Soon after, the hospital was rechristened again, this time as Florida Hospital North Pinellas.
Through all the changes—both in names and owners—one thing has stayed the same: The commitment Dr. Burnette demonstrated nearly 90 years ago, when he convinced the city to fund a small hospital to better serve his neighbors, is still with us today. We’re bigger and more advanced, sure, both we’re no less dedicated to serving our community.